Have you heard the news ? The National Zoo’s panda, Mei Xiang, might be pregnant.
Oh lord, here we go again.
All panda stories strike a particularly nostalgic chord with me. This is not because I lived across from the National Zoo when I was a toddler (I did. It was awesome). Nor is it because I just adore pandas in all their slow moving, bamboo-gnawing cuteness. Nor is it that I care about their plight as an endangered species.
No, any mention of a panda brings me back to my first days as a reporting intern a few summers ago. I was tasked with writing a brief piece about the last baby panda at the National Zoo. I can’t exactly remember that day’s breaking panda news. Maybe, the panda opened its eyes for the first time. Or it had a good check-up. Or it gained three pounds.
Whatever it was, it was clearly something MAJOR. So, I called the damn zoo, wrote the damn story, and didn’t think much of it.
Apparently other people did though. The piece couldn’t have been more than 400 words. But, I received two e-mails about it. Until that day, I’d never gotten a single reaction letter ever before for a piece.
Then, entirely unexpectedly: TWO!!!
One of them informed me that there was actually a 24-hour panda camera looking into the baby’s pen. “Here’s the link if you want to check it out!” he wrote. I didn’t want to check it out. But, I learned a very important lesson that day. For some reason that is entirely inexplicable to me, people are infatuated with pandas.
This Washington Post commenter obviously grasps the same truth: “Why do people care so much about pandas that there has to be an article devoted to the possibility of a panda pregnancy. The panda is a pathetic creature. It subsists on low nutrition bamboo despite the fact that it still has a carnivorous digestive tract, breeds in low numbers, altogether a weak creature fit for extinction. Why not celebrate a creature that is majestic or strong like an eagle or a lion? I know the answer is because pandas look cute, so stupid.”