Above is a picture we can almost unanimously identify (no it is not a furry representation of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation). Although we may not all be aware of Chi Chi, the giant panda who inspired Sir Peter Scott, we are all quite aware that it is the official symbol of the World Wildlife Fund.
Aside from saving the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing costs, Chi Chi brings to light the intensely important essence of the storytelling of science.
Conservation, in theory and in practice, intrinsically revolves around the respectable debate of why we conserve. What is it about a certain species that begs its salvation over another lesser species? How do we delineate which ecosystems are in greatest need and how do we dictate our findings to organizations on the ground and the general populous? Do we want to live in a world where the rainforests have long since been obliterated and abolished? Nature is becoming less natural all the time, are we certain that we can imagine a world without the splendor of colorful wonder that rejuvenates us as fellow animals?
The former two questions are scientific and the latter two tell the story. Scientifically speaking WWF’s panda Chi Chi represents a double-sided conservation model. Although giant panda’s may not be as biologically significant as the honey-bee or the giant sequoia, high atop the misty mountains of Western China there is another story being told. Giant pandas subsist almost entirely on bamboo, in earnest needing anywhere from 25 to 85 pounds of the woody perennial daily to maintain their robust figure. These bamboo forests are the heart and soul of Western China, an economic and geographic strong hold with an essence of enormity; both in terms of physical beauty and biological productivity. These wholesome forest ecosystems are not just the home of Chi Chis next of kin, but a stunning symposium of wonderful and curious species; some of whom, like the golden monkey, are endangered.
In pursuit of protection at the highest level, a deeply enriching story is being told about the giant panda and their bamboo homes. Indeed we can protect an entire ecosystem, ensuring the survival of endangered species, but we need only fall in love with one. Laboriously and gracefully walking from A to B, pandas have the distinct qualities of a wise old man; respectful, calm, understanding even in some ursidae way. Young children hold their plush brethren when they go to sleep at night and their black-rounded eyes are almost apologetic. They sit thoughtfully on their bean-bag-behinds in pleasant temperament and alternate between walking and sitting and eating, walking and sitting and eating, walking and sitting and eating as the time and place demand simply because that’s what they do. They seem happy to do it. Their young, rather orb-like babies, wordlessly beg to be hugged and you are overwhelmed by the strange desire to tell them everything is going to be okay even though you’re not at all sure why it wouldn’t be.
In every distinctly unique faction of science stories like that of the giant panda are being told. The story often reads like an epic poem and its value cannot be underestimated. The wonderful and amusing story of the giant panda currently being told is an inspirational introduction to the amazing world of Western China’s bamboo forests, and all the mysteriously magical creatures in it that are in need of a story of their own. Citizen scientists and professionals alike can see to it that these stories of conservation and community have a happy ending, all that is needed is for someone to start telling it!