Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wild at Heart: The Giant Panda

Over the next week, I will be bringing you previews of the work that will be exhibited this Saturday, May 26th at "Wild at Heart: Keep Wildlife in the Wild," the endangered species benefit that Andrew Hosner and I are co-curating at Thinkspace. 20% of the proceeds of the show will go to Born Free USA to help threatened wildlife. Hope to see you there!

Kelly Vivanco "Royal Panda Bear"

For the Chinese, the Giant Panda is a symbol of peace, and indeed gifts of pandas have been used as peace offerings in China’s diplomatic relations. An adorable-looking bear native to central China, the panda is actually rather moody and not particularly social, preferring to roam alone through the forest. Though it is technically a carnivore, 99% of its diet consists of bamboo. Its thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its mountain habitat, but has historically made it vulnerable to poachers. However, panda hunting has been illegal in China for the past 50 years, and poaching has declined sharply due to harsh punishment for those caught with panda pelts, up to and including the death penalty.

Pandas are currently confined to six remote areas in the mountains of China, as much of their natural lowland habitat has been destroyed by agriculture and development. Because they can consume up to 30 pounds of bamboo in a day, it is necessary for them to travel to new locations once the bamboo supply in their area is depleted. The fragmentation of the bamboo forest into small mountainous pockets can make migrating to new food sources challenging. Currently, the panda is one of the most critically endangered species in the world. There are between 1,500 and 3,000 pandas left in the wild, though that number appears to be slowly rising due to concerted efforts to increase the quantity and quality of their habitat. About 270 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China.

Mari Inukai "Panda"

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