It would appear that fancy dress is also rather popular amongst young giant pandas, according to a rather delightful news report I was reading yesterday. Staff at the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Centre in Wolong, southwest China have been donning Panda costumes and masks in order to disguise themselves whilst interacting with the young pandas in their care.
Whilst it’s definitely more than a little bit adorably amusing to see the human keepers donning giant panda suits, there is serious method to the apparent madness. Over the years of attempting to rear pandas with the ultimate aim of releasing them back into the wild, researchers realised that it was vital to keep human interaction with the endangered mammals to an absolute minimum for the animals’ own sakes.
How to get around those occasions when close contact with the pandas was unavoidable? Some bright spark came up with the genius idea of disguising the human keepers with the furry black and white suits to fool the bears into thinking they are interacting with fellow pandas. The solution seems to be working a treat, with the animals involved in the conservation project appearing to exhibit identical behaviour to their wild counterparts.
So you see, fancy dress isn’t just about fun, it can also play a vital role in all kinds of situations. If you ever get the opportunity to go visiting pandas whilst in China or perhaps at the zoo, make sure you take your Panda Mask with you to help you become bosom buddies with the bears!
By Jennie Humes