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History of Giant Pandas

Fossil evidences suggests that Giant Pandas were already found throughout an area that is now known as Eastern and Southern China during the Pliocene epoch which was around 2 million to 3 million years ago. Some other fossils of these animals have also been found in Northern Vietnam and Northern Myanmar. The giant panda have been featured in a number of ancient Chinese texts. A 2,500 year old geography book entitled The Classics of Seas and Mountains referred to these creatures as “black and white bear like animal that resides in the Qionglai Mountains south of Yandao Country.

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This book also named the huge animal as Mo which was the ancient name for the species. The giant panda was first made known to the Western world in 1869 when the naturalists and French missionary Père Armand David reported his study and examination of a dead hunted specimen. German zoologist Hugo Weigold became the first Westerner to catch a glimpse of a live giant panda in the wild (1916). In 1935, American socialite Ruth Harkness brought with her a female giant panda cub with her to the United States.

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Su-lin (the first giant panda to reach the country alive) was presented in the Brookfield zoo in Chicago and gained the world’s attention and adoration during her short life. Other giant pandas brought to zoos in other countries also died early because of the deficiency in knowledge and information on how to care for them properly. In the 1950s, the Communist Government of China started to dole out giant pandas as a sign of goodwill to other countries (a practice which is popularly known as “panda diplomacy”). China presently loans pandas for exhibits and presentation in zoos all over the world in a program that aims to conserve and prevent extinction of the giant panda species.

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