Further Defense of the Panda-Men

By James Fallows

Previously here and here, and below.
 
PandaHunt.jpg

Many, many people have written in to say that dressing up as an adult animal is a known, "normal" way to deal with baby animals. Eg:

>>Although the guy in the panda suit looks absurd, the idea is actually not so strange among those working to preserve or bring back  animals threatened by extinction.

In California, the California Condor was reintroduced to the wild using birds brought up by human handlers wearing vulture-head handpuppets. See pic here [the "head" on the right is a keeper's hand, in a puppet-glove]:

condor-puppet-credit-usnfws-small.jpg 

And here is a video of the puppet in action.<<

Similarly, about cranes:

>>Something similar has long been done with captive-raised endangered birds intended to be released into the wild. Young animals easily imprint through visual stimulus, and if they imprint on human beings (or any other species), they have a much harder time living in the wild and often are not responsive to mating overtures from their own kind.

See here for the lengths to which researchers go with cranes, for instance [below]. And hand puppets [as above] are used with smaller birds, as in the California Condor recovery project.<< 

raising_cranes2.jpg

And, getting back to large mammals:

>>Your posts about the panda-men reminded me of Ben Kilham's work in New Hampshire; an article in National Graphic some years ago inspired me to read his wonderful book, "Among the Bears." His work is controversial, but just as a matter of interest -- a propos of the panda story -- he suggests that it is futile for humans caring for bears to try to fool them visually (e.g. by keeping them in pens where their vision is blocked so that they can't see the humans who come to bring food).  He says that they know by smell regardless.  

Maybe the Wolong keepers make sure their panda costumes not only look like but smell like adult pandas?<<

I can't answer the last question. Topic for future research.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/12/further-defense-of-the-panda-men/68238/