Last week’s passing of Ling Ling, Japan’s most famous panda, at the age of 22 presents an occasion for a long-overdue review of the species Ailuropoda melanoleuca (literally, ‘black and white black cat foot bear who suffers depression’).

After food with lead in it and human organs harvested from executed political prisoners, pandas are China’s third-largest export, best known for sitting dumbly in zoos around the world while visitors fawn over them and their adorable Chinese names. These names are always one syllable repeated twice (see ‘Ling Ling’, above). While fewer than 1,600 pandas are alive in the wild, the vast majority (27) live in foreign zoos, where most of their time is dedicated to not mating. There are also some pandas in Chinese zoos, which makes as much sense as opening a Taco Bell in the middle of Mexico City: You’ll get a few tourists, but the locals know where the authentic, non-mass-produced food (pandas) is (are).

Much ado is made about the plight of the panda. Pandas are endangered due to habitat destruction, the Chinese tradition of poaching, and their hilariously low birth rate. While their exact fertility rates are unknown, the best estimates are that pandas reproduce once every thousand years. This has prompted aggressive captivity breeding programs. These never work. The reality is that getting pandas to mate is like launching a satellite into orbit. Pandas will do anything to avoid mating, like Quakers avoiding a military draft. Zookeepers have even resorted to showing them pornography in the hopes of getting them to mate, which is more a measure of desperation than scientific training.

However, every so often captive pandas will mate (always by accident), and the local news then runs endless loops of a gross panda cub in an incubator, already planning a life of not mating.

Pandas’ problems come from their basic refusal to act like real bears. First of all, real bears like to mate. Brown bears, black bears, and polar bears are all famous for their robust drive to procreate. Not so pandas. It’s just very low on their list of priorities. In addition, real bears eat what they’re supposed to. Again, not so with pandas. Even though they have the digestive tract of a carnivore and cannot digest cellulose effectively, they insist on keeping to a diet that is 90 percent bamboo. This means that they have to feed constantly, subtracting from time that could otherwise be spent not mating. In fact, it is entirely likely that pandas don’t ever mate because they don’t have enough energy after long days of eating their really inefficient food source.

Also, they’re legally blind.

So while everyone worries about the panda’s future, any objective observer is led to the conclusion that perhaps the panda’s time has passed. Nature is clearly trying to give them the hint that they need to go the way of the Dodo, and maybe we should spend our time on a species that at least wants to survive.

In the meantime, pandas occupy valuable zoo space while bringing little to the table. We’re not even allowed to name them. If we could give the pandas that China lends us names like Babcock or Slider, they might be ever-so-slightly more interesting. Instead we’re left wondering how to pronounce ‘Gao Gao.’

In conclusion, pandas are literally a dying breed, and whatever their charms or ability to symbolize goodwill between us and a brutal Communist regime, the panda species leaves much to be desired.


30 responses to “Pandas

  1. I must admit, while I was really looking forward to liking the Panda, it fell quite short of my expectations.

    But that’s not the part that ticks me off…

    It’s become obvious that some just don’t know when to say “enough is enough” when it comes to endorsements. It’s one thing to constantly see the Panda’s likeness in every toy store I frequent, (no doubt Pandas have witnessed the onslaught of “Harry Potter” and “Pokemon” merchandise and are trying to get in on the action), but now I can’t even enjoy my favorite snack-food, “Ling Ling Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers”, without being reminded of the dangers of celebrity Panda endorsements gone awry. I mean, don’t they get it?? Come on!!

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  3. Pingback: *UPDATE* - Pandas « Animal Review

  4. pandas are so cool. i love them.

  5. Pingback: *UPDATE* – Pandas To Go Extinct (Hopefully!) « Animal Review

  6. Nicole MArtinez

    dai is a cute pic

  7. China isn’t a communist regime.

    They have a free-market economy.

    Just sayin’

  8. And a one party dictatorship by the communist party…

  9. This post is great, a much elaborated version of an anti-panda argument I’ve been making for a while: pandas simply aren’t giving not going extinct the effort it requires. They’re simply not trying. One thing you omiyted: Panda females, on the rare occasions when they fail to not procreate, have been know to occasionally sit on and squash their tiny helpless newborn cubs. Just in case their spectacularly low fecundity was insufficient to warrant that “F”.

  10. Watching a panda play, or even eat, for two minutes gives me much more joy than reading your misinformed article. I’m not sure if you were just trying to be funny or if you’re oblivious to your false statements. Tai Shan and Mei Xiang are just two examples of pandas names that are not just one syllable repeated twice. Also, Tai Shan’s name was selected democratically, via web votes.

    While it might seem to you that pandas just sit dumbly in zoos, they might think that we humans sit even more dumbly in front of our computers and TVs all day.

    • You’re taking this article far, far too serious.

      • Please let me be the first to point out that while he writes what litttle he knows of Pandas which is not too much, I might add!He clearly states The Pandas should be off this planet, in his words:they need to go the way of the Dodo, and maybe we should spend our time on a species that at least wants to survive! Oh come off it! What species does not want to survive?The valuable Zoo space The Panda (an endangered species) is taking up.Is this person for real?Maybe I could rent him a condo designed like a Zoo with all of it’s limitations and have people wathcing every move he makes!!See how he likes it and to think he thinks the Panda should be extinct as our once infamous DoDo bird!

  11. Thank you for the great post! I agree that there are some animals that are really just evolutionary dead-ends. While there are many species that humans have, or are in the process of, destroy(ing), pandas would probably be extinct by now if it weren’t for all our effort in keeping them alive for our own gratification.

    Why isn’t China as excited about limiting the slaughter of endangered shark species for soup? Oh, right, they aren’t cute.

    • anna, stfu. the majority of chinese people dont even eat that. it is just overblown in the media bc it is ‘exotic’…not to mention the most wasteful country when it comes to consumption (of all sorts) is the united states…pandas are seen as a national treasure…like the bald eagle…not like americans dont go and hunt animals for sport…both in the us and abroad…i had a friend who had all sorts of animal skin and heads in her house that her grandfather hunted…and pretty much all of it was exotic, endangered. stop pointing fingers. i’ve been to china and i’m sick of all the negative media portrayal in this country (usa) which makes everyone here hate it.

  12. I agree with the sentiment that pandas aren’t staying competitive, and if they weren’t cute they would probably be gone already. In fact, my wife and I now use the term “panda” to refer to humans who make the least of their advantages:

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  15. this world is a total fail, and pandas are smart to not want to procreate in it. think of them as depressed geniuses.


  17. Another dirty secret behind those “cute” Chinese bears?

    The reason they don’t kill and eat humans may be because meat happens not to taste good to them due to a genetic mutation:

    They aren’t friendly animals, they just happen to have no taste buds for enjoying your leg.

  18. Pingback: Pandas are evil?!?! Blasphemy! | Social Snackables

  19. I love pandas! I agree with Feedback in that I love them very much and find you and all others who agree with you to be vile, low and poor excuses for human beings.

    Pandas are better than all of you.

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  21. Pandas are not bears. They aren’t even really related to bears. They’re closer to raccoons than they are to bears.

  22. the panda chooses to eat plants because it has to. because once it starts eating plants, it has to move slowly to conserve its energy thus it cannot kill for food!. also we noe that bears only eat things that are alive so ya… so u cant blame the pandas. and pandas are only found in szechuan. so u cant say having pandas in zoos is like having taco bell in mexico

  23. That was an amazingly written post. Just brilliant. I actually learnt a few things about pandas today.

  24. Luna Lovegood

    Haters gonna hate.!!!

    let the Panda tell you – Haters gonna hate!! and We love pandas!

  25. I would suggest feeding the pandas raw cannabis!

  26. Panda Bear,
    Cute, adorable!!
    Leave them be in there own habitat.
    Stop trying to figure out what they are all about!
    Leave them be.
    If you don’t, well … What is going to be the next project!
    Sometimes, trying to figure things out,
    Makes for more harm than good!
    56 years old, Panda’s have always been my passion.
    Worried that they can not be themselves, because of to much human interferance:((

  27. Pingback: Go home, panda, you’re drunk. » Why Pandas Suck

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