Qizai, World's Only Captive Brown And White Panda, Thrives Against All Odds
With only about 1,800 specimens left in the wild, all giant pandas are precious. However, Qizai, a seven-year-old that resides at the Foping Panda Valley in China’s Shaanxi province, is even more so. That’s because he is amongst a handful of giant pandas known to have brown and white fur and the only such specimen in captivity. However, while the 220-pound Qizai is now the superstar of the animal world, life has not always been easy.
Abandoned by his mother when he was just two months old, Qizai spent his early years at the Shaanxi Rare Wildlife Rescue Center. Once he had been nursed back to health, the giant panda cub was transferred to his current home so that he could be in the company of other giant pandas. However, the other bears appeared to realize that Qizai was “different” and often bullied him by stealing his bamboo.
The officials have since moved him to his own enclosure and assigned him a full-time keeper. He Xin, who spends 18 hours a day looking after Qizai, says the adorable giant panda is slower than his black and white peers. He takes longer to respond when called by his name and also eats at a sluggish pace. But that does not stop Qizai from devouring a healthy diet of Chinese flour buns, milk, and as much as 44 pounds of bamboo every day.
Qizai belongs to a subspecies of giant pandas commonly referred to as Qinling pandas, a nod to the remote Qinling Mountains where they reside. While many of area’s giant pandas sport small brown patches on their bellies, only seven, including Qizai, have been observed to have fur that is entirely brown.
Researchers are not sure of the cause. Some speculate that the brown fur is a result of a recessive gene. Others believe it is due to the climate or an environmental chemical in the Quinling area that is affecting one or more of the pigmentation genes. Scientists are hoping that they will be able to find some clues by observing Qizai’s offspring and are currently in search of a mate for this beautiful, fluffy animal!
Resources: dailymail.co.uk, treehugger.com, pandasinternational.org
Reading Comprehension (8 questions)
- Why are giant pandas precious?
- Why is Qizai special?
Critical Thinking Challenge
Do you think the other pandas are bullying Qizai because they know he...
Vocabulary in Context
With only about 1,800 specimens left in the wild, all giant pandas are precious.
In the above sentence, the word precious most likely means:
(a) dear; beloved.
(b) of high price or...