Lately I’ve heard some folks using the expression “sad panda” as in “If the Yankees don’t win, I’ll be a sad panda,” or something like that (Oh wait, they didn’t win. Sorry sad panda.) So why pandas? I guess pandas do kind of have naturally sad-looking faces. With those big black circles around their eyes, they look a little bit like they’re crying, or about to star in an eye cream ad.
But really, what do pandas have to be sad about? In the US, they are veritable celebrities. Although China has no problem sending us boat-loads of lead-laden plastic toys, toxic dry wall and poisoned pet food, they are a little stingy when it comes to handing out the pandas. For that reason, few US zoos have panda exhibits. Consequently visitors line up in droves to see the pandas that are out there, mobbing the panda viewing sites, overloading the panda web cams and swarming zoo gift shops to buy panda-related souvenirs. Every panda event is well-publicized. Every pregnancy, mating attempt, new panda offspring is tabloid fodder for the panda world. New panda babies are oft-photographed doing mundane activities, like furry Suri Cruises. When panda partners are not getting along, they’re on the cover of Panda Magazine, the Ashtons and Demis of the animal kingdom.
Despite their fame, or perhaps because of it, there is one circumstance that could cause US pandas to in fact, be sad. There’s no Match.com for pandas and our furry friends largely remain unrequited in the panda mating department. It may be a combination of shyness, panda angst (“do these spots make me look fat?”), or the downside of being the rock stars of the furry world, but most pandas seem unable to get their groove on. The zoo keepers do what they can to help – soft lighting, gourmet bamboo dinners, Tom Jones music playing in the habitats, but the pandas just can’t get it done. Time and again we hear that the panda celebs need artificial assistance when it comes to mating. So maybe pandas do have something to be sad about after all.
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