I’m asked this question many times a day by our guests at the San Diego Zoo. Researchers aren’t really sure why giant pandas are black and white, but it certainly enhances their beauty, and you can’t beat that smile they always seem to have. I love their smiles but I must remember I don’t know a good bear day from a bad one and with that smile it is hard to determine just what they are thinking!
Could their color be because they are solitary? Could it be because they need the territory for their food source and can be seen at a distance? I think that’s a possibility; they really don’t like to share their bamboo. In just a few months Bai Yun (pictured with a puzzle feeder) will not want to share her food with Su Lin. She will want her daughter out of her space and won’t continue her relationship with her baby. Remember, they are bears, and most of the time pandas are solitary animals.
When a baby panda is born it isn’t black and white. I’ve seen three babies after their births; one was shrimp pink and the other two were snowy white. When they are about five days old their skin starts turning black in places, and by the time they are two weeks old they are black and white. Oh, so tiny and watching them grow is so exciting: you watch the fur come in black and white and they begin to look like a panda. When they look at you, you just want to hug and squeeze them but, alas, they are bears.
Black and white is their color and they are just too beautiful not to visit them while they are with us here in San Diego at the Zoo. I hope you will take the time during the holidays to stop by the Giant Panda Research Station and say hello to the bears. They love company as long as you use those quiet voices.
Kay Ferguson is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.
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