Panda: CUTE? Wait till you see their dark side…
Have you ever heard of Panda (scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca) eating their own children? Well I did, and I was disgusted.
Although researchers found that infanticide is commonly practiced in the animal community, having cute animals like the panda eating their own offspring is totally unconvincing for me. As stated in the website of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Giant Pandas are carnivores but have a diet closer to that of herbivores, eating almost exclusively bamboo. So how possibly is this true?
According to Scott Forbes, professor of biology at the University of Winnipeg, “Pandas frequently give birth to twins, but only one will be raised, the other abandoned… This is the dark side of Pandas” (Forbes, 2007). So cannibalism in Pandas is to a great extent, false. They just display the worst trait of mothers.
Such behaviour is not unusual for Giant Pandas and abandonment could perhaps be a survival strategy. As the chosen offspring gets bigger, it takes a lot of attention and starts to have eat more. Mothers then may not be able to provide for two offspring until they are fully weaned. Hence, “one robust offspring is probably better than two weak ones later on” (Forbes, 2007). In addition, Pandas are solitary animals in nature and male Pandas take little or no interest in their offspring. Thus, this further explains the need for Panda mothers to strategize in breeding, but in a coldhearted way I guess.
3 years ago, it was reported by the Chinese media that one of the chosen offspring in Beijing Zoo was accidentally crushed to death by eight year old Yinghua (name of Panda) due to her clumsiness. Though maternal behavior of Pandas portrays high levels of care-giving, they still suffer high rates of neonatal mortality (Zhang et al., 2000). Again, as pointed out in the website of WWF, Pandas are erroneously believed to be poor breeders, so removal of infants for hand-rearing became necessary as this helps increase the chances for survival. Nonetheless, researches are coming up with ways to encourage maternal care in the Giant Panda, and the research results can be accessed here.
About the Panda. n.d. URL: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/giant_panda/panda/ (accessed on 3 April 2013).
Angier, N., 2006. One Thing They Aren’t: Maternal. New York Times, 9 May 2006. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/09/science/09mama.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (accessed on 2 April 2013).
Forbes, Scott, 2007. A Natural History of Families. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 256 pp.
Ho, D., 2010. China panda abandons twin, crushes other. CNN, 6 July 2010. URL: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/06/china-panda-abandons-twin-crushes-other/ (accessed on 3 April 2013).
Mother’s Day Mayhem: “Worst” Animal Moms?. National Geographic News, 7 May 2010. URL: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/photogalleries/mothers-day-worst-animal-moms-pictures/#/tai-shan-panda_4366_600x450.jpg (accessed on 2 April 2013).
Panda Facts. n.d. URL: http://www.pandasinternational.org/giantpanda.html (accessed on 3 April 2013).
Zhang, G.Q., et al., 2000. A method for encouraging maternal care in the giant panda. Zoo Biology, 19(1): 53-63.