The state-run Xinhua news agency has reported that a five-year study at a conservation centre in Chengdu in China’s southwestern Sichuan province has identified 13 words of panda talk. The beasts were recorded in different situations that included eating, fighting and nursing their young.
Panda talk in detail
Pandas seeking a mate baa like a sheep while interested females chirp or twitter in return. Zhang Hemin, head of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda where the study took place, termed this “their own unique love language.” Cubs go “wow wow” when unhappy, “gee gee” when hungry, “cuckoo” when content and “wah wah” when Mater crushes them. A mother searching for her spawn tweets like a bird and she will bleat if she fears for her offspring. “Coo coo” is panda talk for “nice.” An intimidated panda barks.
Zhang remarked, “Trust me – our researchers were so confused when we began the project. They wondered if they were studying a panda, a bird, a dog or a sheep.” He commented that comprehending panda talk will assist in their protection both in- and outside zoos but particularly outside. The centre hopes to create a panda translator using voice recognition technology.
China has long given pandas as gifts for diplomatic reasons. They are regarded as endangered. 375 live in captivity, more than half at this one conservation centre. There are only 1,864 at large, and then only in China, a number that has risen by 268 since 2003. Nicola Loweth, regional officer for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, attributed this to conservation actions by the Chinese government. One measure is the banning of logging in certain areas, leaving illegal logging to be contended with. There have been complaints that pandas only get so much attention because they’re cute.
Pandas’ big problem
One major problem for the species is its low rate of reproduction and small litters, as evidenced by the much-documented travails of Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the pandas on loan to Edinburgh Zoo. They have failed to mate and artificial insemination has also proved unsuccessful. Cloning has been proposed. Alas, cloned animals often experience health problems, which is why Dolly the sheep, the first ever cloned mammal, had to be euthanised at the age of six.
Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”