|This is what panda cahoots looks like.|
The day I visited the Panda Breeding and Research Center in Chengdu, I fell unequivocally, irrevocably in love with pandas.
Correction: GIANT pandas.
We're talking ooh-and-ahh love. Take-a-picture-when-they-stretch-and-yawn love. Watch-them-eat, watch-them-sleep, watch-a-video-of-them-being-born, run-out-and-a-by-a-backpack-made-in-their-shape kinda love.
You get me?
So I'm walking around with my dopey-love grin. I see the clumsy yearlings eat themselves into a bamboo food coma. I see the toddlers sleeping in the playscape of their "kindergarten". I see the baby pandas, so young that their fur is white and grey instead of white and black. And I am all click-snap-snap with the camera and feeling so much love.
And then we met the Red Pandas.
Did you know there is another type of Panda? The Red Panda looks like the bastard offspring of a raccoon and a panda bear, although how that coupling could have ever taken place, on the animal god knows.
The red pandas are allowed free reign of the nature reserve, which means you could be walking along and one could just pop on the walkway next to you at any point.
There are these holes in the fences (which led me to believe that the fences are more to keep the humans out than the pandas in) and pandas just sort of swagger around and rub their bums on things, marking territory and scavenging for food.
“Make sure you stay away from them, at least 3 meters” said the guide, said the signs, said everyone, “because they bite”.
You don’t have to tell me twice.
I stayed away from the pandas. Let me repeat, I stayed away from them. It just didn’t occur to me that I would have to account for their actions as well as mine own. I mind my own business, and I expect other creatures to do the same.
So yeah, we’re walking along and I’m all snap-cl-CLICK with my camera when the impossible happens. A red panda hops on our side of the fence, and starts walking by us all like “sup?” Just swaggering along while we all go “oooh” and “ahhh” and click-snappity-click.
I’m all Indiana Jones about my shot, crouching low and trying to capture his little face for National Geographic, when he looks right at me. And he’s got this little buddy, and they both look at each other like they’re in cahoots or something, and then he starts towards me. But I’m not looking at him, I’m looking at the buddy who is styling and profiling for me, and I’m hovering with my finger above the clicker, waiting for him to turn juuuuust a little bit, and not paying attention to his buddy who is swaggering up to me, nice and slow like, and I’m pushing the button and
That little jerk-face bit my ankle! I tumbled over and he bolted - swear to god - CHUCKLING and sh*t, and his buddy bolts too. They both belly slide under the nearest hole in the fence, high five each other, look back at me rubbing my ankle, and laugh.
And it’s not like I can chase down those little punks and give them the thumping they deserve because they’re all ‘endangered’ and sh*t, and even though they approached me instead of me approaching them, they can just walk away smirking while everyone “ooh”s and “ahhh”s and snaps more pictures of me on the ground and the pandas high fiving.