Book Review: Panda: An Intimate Portrait Of One Of The World’s Most Elusive Animals, by Heather Angel
Pandas are elusive animals, and with good reason, because they happen to have attracted the interest of humanity and this interest came with a great deal of violence directed at pandas in order to make their pelts attractive museum pieces. This particular book does not focus on the history of the panda and its understanding (or lack thereof) by Chinese and Western scientists and people. What this book does, though, is provide for readers that which a great many people do want and appreciate, and that is an understanding of the panda in its natural habitat as much as can be seen by those who are not able to travel to remote parts of China or be fortunate enough to find the elusive and shy animal when they are near it. The panda has many reasons to hide from violent men with guns, but hopefully can recognize the difference that it makes to be pursued with a high-quality camera rather than with weaponry. For the shy animal, it may not make a huge difference, but it is easy to concede the superiority of informing people of panda habits through people with cameras and able typing skills than it is to unleash large amounts of tourists on the fragments of panda sanctuary land that remain or to hunt pandas to near extinction to bring them to Western zoos.
This book is almost 150 pages and it consists of a large variety of gorgeous photos of pandas in their natural environment as well as text that discusses this shy and hidden animal, for all of its fame worldwide. The book is divided into various chapters, beginning with an introduction that discusses the author’s own fondness for pandas and a desire to get to know them better. After that there is a chapter that deals with panda places, which include trees, fields, and rivers, all of which show loping pandas enjoying themselves, mostly. There is a chapter that discusses the panda’s fondness for a bamboo diet, chomping on the bamboo readily. This is followed by a chapter that deals with panda movement, which is loping and a bit awkward, it must be admitted. Then there is a chapter on playful pandas, which shows mostly young pandas frolicking happily. A chapter on pandas in winter shows the animal in the stark winter snow of its remote highland home. This is followed by a chapter on red pandas that shows the author interested in the more obscure cousin of the great pandas. After this comes a discussion about having a passion for pandas as well as acknowledgements and further information.
Overall, this book does what it sets out to do, and that is to provide a look at the panda as an animal in the wild. From the looks of these photos, it would appear as if the panda behaves in the wild similarly to the way that pandas behave in zoos. This would indicate, for what it’s worth, that the panda shows its true nature in captivity, and that there is a lot of variability in terms of how pandas act. As animals, they have personality, and their general look does tend to attract the nurturing and caring instincts that some of us have as people. That is probably for the best, as herbivorous bears might tend to be seen as having the worst of both worlds, a frightening visage that augurs violence and a lack of bloodthirstiness in terms of its behavior. That said, pandas do appear to be able to defend themselves somewhat with sharp teeth for eating bamboo and sharp claws, even if few land or air species can effectively defend themselves against bullets, it must be admitted.