Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Tue, Jul 17 2007

Red panda caper

The news about Virginia Zoo's red panda escaping for a second time is amusing at first glance. But I'm also wondering if the animal's natural habitat calls for more wide open spaces or if the red panda is perhaps prone to push the edges of its territory in the wild. It could be that what zoo officials are thinking of as particularly clever or disarming may simply be the red panda doing what red pandas are supposed to do. A quick glance at a few online sites featuring red pandas tells me that female pandas usually stick to an area of about a square mile. While this may not seem like much in the wild, a red panda in a zoo may feel restless and need more territory than an institutional exhibit can provide. And let's not forget that zoo workers are always fixing and trimming and tidying up zoo habitats that, in the wild, would be left to carry the scented trails of many different animals. The lady red panda could be venturing out in search of the unique scent of male red pandas that would be unmistakable in the wild.

I'm not against zoos the way some folks are. I believe they hold promise for maintaining our vanishing species and for educating the public. But I do believe that we should try to make a zoo mimic an animal's foraging and territorial aspects whenever possible. We've seen what overcrowding does to the human species. When we can't even handle our own territorial balance we should take extra care not to assume that we know what is best for the animals who rely on us for their daily food and other needs.

On the other hand, the lady red panda from the Virginia Zoo could be doing what even human females have been known to do when they get bored. She could be simply out shopping.

posted at: 07:49 | category: /Science | link to this entry



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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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