I realized I haven’t really said what I have been doing at the panda base. I expressed my love for the pandas but not what my responsibilities at the base have been. Caroline, Valerie and I are helping with interpretation and spreading awareness about conservation education. We take supplies (panda skull, red panda skull, panda arm, baby panda, and black bear skull (none of them real, only modeled after the animals)) and setup at various places in the base. We then answer questions anyone may have about pandas and red pandas.
We explain the different bones in the panda skull/arm and answer questions about their diet. Giant pandas and red pandas have a large sagittal crest which holds their massive facial muscles used for chewing, which is also why they have large cheekbones. Giving them the adorable rounded face.
Giant pandas have the same five wrist bones as humans. One of the bones has evolved over time to make a “pseudo” thumb, which enables the giant panda to grasp the bamboo. The diet of the red panda and the giant panda is 99% bamboo.
It is rare that anyone asks about conservation or the amount of pandas left in the wild. Every so often we get the question of how social work relates to pandas. In which case we usually give a short statement about One Health, which focuses on the connection between humans, animals, and the environment.
The One Health initiative states that human health is affected by animals and the environment and vice versa. As human population increases, contact between humans and animals also increases. By expanding and populating new areas, we are forcing animals to relocate (if there is anywhere to go). The field of human-animal interaction continues to grow. I am glad I am in a field that will continue to grow in importance. All creatures are going to have to work together in order to survive.
I have always known that number of pandas in the wild is decreasing. My first thought is not to connect that with population in growth in China. I was aware that it was a factor, but it wasn’t something that I really attributed to the problem, until now. I am amazed at how many people I see on a daily basis, at all times. Population control is something that has been in the forefront of my mind since being in China. I never understood the one child law that was enforced here. I still do not agree with taking away the right of an individual to choose their future and family plans, but I understand that this is a country that has been pushed to extremes out of sheer need. It is a dilemma that I have been struggling with during this trip.