by Heather Angel
After reading about the golden moon bear, I wanted to know more about bears, so I searched through my book pile and found this brief, informative volume on pandas. Written by a wildlife photographer, Pandas gives an overview of the species accompanied by many gorgeous photographs. The book tells about panda habitat, diet, behavior and mostly, why they are so endangered. Its main focus is conservation, and to that end, there seem to be more descriptions of the unique habitat than of the pandas themselves. This book states that according to the conformation of their skulls, pandas are part of the raccoon family. Yet in the book on moon bears I read that DNA studies have shown pandas to be bears. The smaller red panda is still a puzzle- is it part of the bear family, raccoon family, or one all its own? I was surprised to learn that pandas have canine characteristics- including their teeth and digestive system- and yet their main food source is a plant, bamboo. They can't digest it entirely, so they have to practically eat all day in order to get enough nourishment. And bamboo has a peculiarity that once every seventy, hundred years or so, a variety will all bloom at once, set seed, and die. It used to be that when the bamboo died off, pandas simply migrated to another area. Now with developments cutting the forest into smaller sections, the pandas have nowhere to go to find new bamboo. The other food sources they turn to aren't sufficient, and they slowly starve. These are only a few of the facts I learned about pandas from this book. I'm really curious to know how a canine animal evolved to be so dependent upon a plant species, yet unable to utilize it efficiently. I suppose science hasn't figured that out yet.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 72 pages, 1998