I rose early on my last day in Chengdu to go to the huge Giant Panda Reserve just north of the city. You have to go early to see them eating apparently, because for the rest of the day they just sleep. Watching them munch on bamboo like obese, hung-over students (like Crap Dave with fur) I couldn’t help wondering what all the fuss was about. This was the most active these creatures got. They were so lazy the bamboo had to be stacked next to them with extra bundles provided if their supply got low. I watched one panda trying to climb a tree. It was absolutely useless. Swaying around, unsteady on it’s feet, if there was a flood coming or, god forbid an actual predator, the fat bastard would have been wiped out before it got above the roots. We then watched an informational movie which described how most species have a survival cycle of five million years. Miraculously, pandas have been around for eight (million). The narrator then queried why pandas have recently changed from being ferocious meat-eating carnivores to docile bamboo-munching vegans who don’t even have the energy to mate. To me, it was pretty obvious. Evolution’s full-time hooter is sounding. It’s time for pandas to exit to gene pool. Sad but true, because they are extremely cute, but any species that can only breed by having the male knocked out, wanked off by a scientist and then having his panda jizz shoved up a lady panda’s muff, is not meant for this world.
As I walked round the reserve it just became weirder. The place was like Jurassic Park mixed with a retirement home. Useless waddling creatures being force-fed protein biscuits as their natural diet doesn’t provide enough nutrition. Workers in blue overalls and masks sweeping up after the lazy buggers so they don’t squat in their own mess. There was even a glassed-off room where a number of motionless baby pandas lay (genuinely like John Hammond’s laboratory) awaiting to be fed milk by their surrogate human mothers. I felt like Jeff Goldblum. “Nature finds a way,” he says at one point in the movie, referring to the dinosaurs’ ability to breed despite it all. This was the other way around. Nature’s had it with the pandas but the Chinese are making a mint off them. In the reserve you could pay 1000 RMB (£100) to stroke a baby panda and get photographed with it. The queue was 70-strong when I saw it.
Incidentally, my flat-mate went to a market in Shanghai the other day and saw four tiger claws up for sale. They’re just not cute and cuddly enough though are they? The panda is now China’s symbol and the Chinese will do anything to keep the critters going, which is admirable in some respects, but when you consider their disregard for other, arguably more functioning and definitely just as endangered, species it’s difficult not to be cynical about the whole thing.
The pandas were very cute though. I got some lovely photos.