THE GIANT PANDAS OF WOLONG by George R. & Others Schaller


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Despite the universal appeal of pandas, this report of their life in the wild is not for the populace at large. Rather, it's a painstaking account of field observations by a combined Chinese/World Wildlife Fund team that included inveterate zoologist Schaller, well-known for studies of the mountain gorilla and the Serengeti lion. Scholars will find, however, that numerations of species and thickets of analysis are lit up with felicitous observations and phrases. Considering that the giant panda is an elusive, usually solitary animal, often invisible in strands of bamboo or camouflaged in snow, the authors netted considerable information. Essentially they tracked half a dozen pandas (via telemetry devices), kept a few others in holding pens, and complemented their observations with accounts based on panda-behavior in Chinese zoos. The question that most propels scholars is why the animal should have become so inextricably linked to the bamboo as its primary food, to the point that the species' survival is threatened. The team's 1981-83 studies were able to detail a picture of a large, amazingly limber animal that spends much of the time foraging on bamboo shoots, leaves, and stems--a goodly portion of which is indigestible because of its cellulose content. The giant panda, it seems, has the guts of a carnivore but the habits of a herbivore. (This accounts for the frequency and abundance of droppings, much of which represent foodstuffs that have undergone little processing.) To round out the life cycle, there are analyses of vocalisms, scent-marking, and mating and maternal behavior. Photographs and some wonderful drawings accompany the text. Altogether: a boost to the panda's reputation and the conservation movement.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press