Recently, in addition to various lifting ropes, swings and ladders, some red and yellow “fruit devices” are installed in the Red Panda Exercise Yard of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. What exactly are these “fruit devices” installed on ladders or swings used for? Not before long, a nimble red panda jumping down from a tree at full speed answers this question.
It’s a pumpkin and an apple hung from a ladder.
One steps on the swing cautiously as if it is on a single-plank bridge, and plucks the apple off and hangs itself on the swing to eat. The other stands up with two paws on the swing, and puts its head through the pumpkin ring and starts to eat. It’s surprising that they peacefully eat their own favorite “complementary food” instead of getting into a fight for the food.
The one with the apple: er, brother, someone is spying us when we eat!
The other with the pumpkin: what? Emmm, what did you say? I can't hear you. It’s really yummy. I’m gonna eat it into a moon shape.
These red pandas will engage in such activities every day, making tourists feel extremely excited: “Wow, they move so quickly, and they can get off the tree backward. Brilliant! Hey! Look! The red panda eats pumpkin. What the foods are hung up, for the red pandas to play? What? The red panda is eating the apple with two hands, oh, no, two paws. It’s so funny. You see that? It can sit on the swing so steadily. And they don’t’ fight for food. They move so quickly even on ladders and frames”.
These new tricks for providing “complementary foods” for red pandas really get two results from one effort: it not only “enriches” the exercise yard of red pandas, but also creates extra enjoyment for tourists. As a matter of fact, these small tricks contain several scientific facts about red pandas.
The first is about the diet of red pandas. They eat a wide range of foods. Like giant pandas, they eat mostly bamboo sprouts, shoots and leaves, and may eat wild fruit, tree leaves, moss and birds or bird eggs and other small animals, insects, among others. They prefer sweet foods. They are observed to leave grass green feces in their live area. Red pandas love to keep themselves clean. Generally, they would defecate in a fixed spot, and they would rub their face and mouth with paws or lick their mouth with tongue after each meal, which makes them look very cute. Tongue serves as an exploratory and sensory organ for red pandas, so we can often see them sticking their tongues out.
The second is about whether they are social or solitary animals. Red pandas are often observed to travel alone or live in small groups. The have territory consciousness, so fights for foods or space are occasionally observed in case of limited overall environment for red pandas in captivity. And these fights may get very violent once started (biting off ears or tails, etc.). With sufficient food, two well-matched (possibly of opposite sex) red pandas can live in peace.
The third is about the big tails of red pandas. Tails help keep balance, so they can move steadily on trees and ladders. Red pandas have a nine-ring pattern on their tails, so they are dubbed as “nine-ring wolves”. And the term “wolf” implies that they have a fierce nature behind their cute looks.
The fourth is about front paws of red pandas. Giant pandas can easily hold or pinch an apple, because they have a “sixth-finger” that helps them eat bamboo. For this reason, red pandas share some space of the habitat of giant pandas, making them “companion animals” of giant pandas.
The fifth is about “enriching”. As a matter of fact, “enriching” is not limited to giant pandas only. Instead, it applies to most animals in captivity. “Enriching” literally means expanding the living environment or living contents of animals, with an aim to reduce “stereotyped behaviors” of animals. To put it simply, it aims to prevent animals from getting “mad” due to simple and dull life, and make red pandas get some exercise in the process of walking, having difficulty in finding food and looking for food for the purpose of their physical and mental health.
As it turns out, significant scientific knowledge is contained in the small tricks for providing “complementary foods” for red pandas in the exercise yard.