Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and Green Organic Panda Dung Tea of Sichuan Province in China

by DerdriuMarriner

Some soils have enough nutrients to grow cash crops. Others need some help from fertilizers. Fresh manure serves as fertilizer for growing southwest China’s Giant Panda dung tea.

China dominates tea production worldwide. Maintaining the lead draws upon harvesting evergreen flowering, fruiting shrub leaves for:
• Black (compressed), green (new-bud), oolong (withered), pu-erh (fermented), white (spring-picked), and yellow (slow-dried) teas;
• Combining with carnation, globe amaranth, jasmine, lily, marigold, and osmanthus blossoms into flower tea.

Four sets of provinces ensure dominance by the People’s Republic:
• Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan in the south;
• Gansu, Henan, Shandong, and Shanxi north of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River;
• Guizhou, Sichuan, and Yunnan in the southwest;
• Hunan, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang south of the Changjiang.

It is in Sichuan that giant pandas and green teas bio-geographically converge and inspire the launching of panda dung teas by businessman, educator, journalist, and naturalist An Yanshi.

"Men Laden With Tea, Sichuan Sheng, China": 1908 photo by Ernest Henry Wilson (February 15, 1876 – October 15, 1930)

Convergence of tea and pandas in Sichuen Province as center on Ancient Tea Route and as main homeland of Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Subtleties in appearance and bio-geography account for the recognition of subspecies. The nominate giant panda belongs among the native fauna of Sichuan Province. The Qinling panda contrastingly counts among the animals native to altitudes of 4,265.09 – 9,842.52+ feet (1,300 – 3,000+ meters) above sea level on the Qinling Mountains of Shaanxi Province. The name melanoleuca accurately describes the black-and-white giant panda. It does not do likewise for the Qinling panda. Shaanxi pandas in fact exhibit dark and light brown -- not black and white -- coloration. Mammalogists also find bodies and skulls smaller and molars larger among Qinling pandas. They hypothesize:

  • Divergence of 300,000 years ago from the shared species ancestors;

  • Mutation in color from inbreeding.

 

Qinling Panda landscape: Along the freeway Hanzhong-Xi'an crossing Qinling Mountains, a recreational area depicts long history of this road which joins Shaanxi and Sichuan.

"Small Wall of China"
"Small Wall of China"

 

But both subspecies articulate dark-furred ears, eye-patches, limbs, muzzles, and shoulders. Colors camouflage movements through rocky, shade-dappled, snowy habitats. Wool creates warmth in cool forests. Migrations and pelts enable both pandas to:

  • Avoid hibernation;

  • Exchange cooler elevations for carrion-, grass-, and small bird- and mammal-filled lower slopes;

  • Inhabit temporarily hollow trees and rock crevices.

They encourage maturity:

  • Physically, with head-and-body lengths of 4 – 6 feet (1.22 – 1.83 meters), shoulder lengths of 2 – 3 feet (60.9 – 91.4 centimeters), tail lengths of 4 – 6 inches (10.16 – 15.24 centimeters), and weights of 165 – 350 pounds (74.84 – 158.76 kilograms);

  • Sexually at 4 – 8 years;

  • Temporally to 20 – 30 years.

 

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) about one week old at Chengdu's Giant Panda Breeding Research Base: giant Panda is only 90-180 grams (3.17 - 6.34 ounces) at birth.

neonatal Giant Panda
neonatal Giant Panda

 

Compatible behaviors and physiques acknowledge giant and Qinling panda similarities. Pandas breed between March and May. After gestating 95 – 181 days, females deliver 1 – 2 blind, pink, toothless, white-furred offspring, each weighing 3.18 – 5.01 ounces (90 – 142 grams). Cubs dominate:

  • Dark-patched ears, eyes, limbs, and shoulders in 1 – 4 weeks;

  • Sight in 6 – 8 weeks;

  • Teething (from baby to permanent) in 14 – 52 weeks;

  • Traveling plantigrade (“flat-footed,” turn-toed) in 12 – 16 weeks;

  • Tree-climbing in 20 weeks;

  • Weaning in 46 – 72 weeks.

They individualize shelters on overlapping home and territorial ranges of 3.09 – 6.95 square miles (8 – 18 square kilometers) each.

 

Bone of the left forelimb of giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) named "Fei Fei": Giant panda's wrist bone anatomy, functioning as opposable thumbs, facilitate steady holding of bamboo.

National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan
National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan

 

Among the critical skills for cubs to fine-tune and grown-ups to maintain are the following:

  • Eluding predatory mammals;

  • Finding food sources;

  • Getting good sleep.

Feeding and sleeping claim 10+ hours each from every 24-hour period. Proper nourishment demands access to bamboo (Bambuseae tribe) and water. Pandas indeed expect to consume 27.56 – 83.78 daily pounds (12.5 – 38 kilograms) worth of the flowering perennial evergreen's stalks. This largely explains:

  • The enlarged wrist bones which flank the panda's 5 fingers and which function as opposable thumbs for holding bamboo in place;

  • The preferred niches within damp, misty, mixed bamboo, broadleaf, and conifer forests up to 3,937.01 – 11,482.94 feet (1,200 – 3,500 meters) above sea level.

 

Giant Panda, seated near bamboo (Bambuseae tribe), at Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Chengu, central Sichuan Province, southwestern China
Chengu, central Sichuan Province, southwestern China

 

Understanding panda behavior predominantly comes about through captivity-, domestication-, and research-related observations. Pandas devote so much time to eating and sleeping that in the wild they:

  • Focus upon their communities and themselves;

  • Frighten predators with 42 teeth (6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, 4 molars per upper jaw; 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, 6 molars per lower jaw) and 20 super-sharp claws.

Travel to China therefore guarantees no panda-sightings other than at such locales as the 92-acre (37.23-hectare) Giant Panda Breeding Research Base's grounds and nursery at:

 

Futou Shan, northern suburb

Chengdu, Sichuan Province 610051.

 

The center lies respectively 6.84 miles (11 kilometers) and 8.08 miles (13 kilometers) north of downtown Chengdu and Sichuan University.

 

Mother-cub panda sculpture at Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Chengdu, central Sichuan Province, southwestern China
Chengdu, central Sichuan Province, southwestern China

 

The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base falls within An Yanshi's ambit from wildlife-related article-writing and lecture-giving -- for Chengdu City residents and Sichuan University students -- to green tea-harvesting in the Qionglai Mountains. The center gets noticed for beautiful habitat, industrious staff, and waste removal. Pandas indeed leave copious droppings because of:

  • Behaving like herbivores (“plant-eaters”);

  • Digesting like carnivores (“meat-eaters”);

  • Sampling fish, insects, kiwi, and small mammals;

  • Using just 30% of all ingested foods.

The center problem-solves waste removal by letting panda manure be transported to fertilize tea shrubs on Professor Yanshi's organic farm at Ya'an. Like green tea processed from fresh buds and foliage, fiber-rich panda dung is high in cancer-fighting antioxidants and nutrients.

 

Panda sculpture made from panda dung: similar to paper mache and redolent of straw.

Panda Research Centre, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, southwestern China
Panda Research Centre, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, southwestern China

Conclusion

 

Professor Yanshi attributes to panda dung fertilizer the fragrant, mature, nutty aromas and tastes produced by processing and serving the spring-picked foliage on his mist-enshrouded farm. Giant pandas and tea shrubs indeed flourish in niches -- such as Ya'an's -- whose environmental configurations monthly average:

  • 4.01 inches (101.81 millimeters) in rainfall;

  • 43.79°F (6.55°C) in temperatures;

  • 29.81 inches (757.25 millimeters) in actual evapo-transpiration.

Recognition of the vulnerability of chemical-riddled environments, deforested habitats, and endangered pandas inspires Professor Yanshi to adopt organic farming methods and channel revenue into environmental activism. The method, the product, and the profits hopefully will improve the well-being of green tea-drinkers and of giant pandas on China's Daxiangling, Liangshan, Minshan, Qinling, and Qionglai Mountains.

 

Mingshan District, under administration of prefect-level city Ya'an, is site of first 7 tea trees, grown c. 53 BC on Mengding Mountain by Wu Lizhen, a native of the area

Mengding Mountain tea has been offered to emperors since 742 AD, during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Mingshan District, west central Sichuan Province, southwestern China
Mingshan District, west central Sichuan Province, southwestern China

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

pandas and tea: an association prompted perhaps by overlapping bio-geographies in Sichuan Province

oil painting by Scott Gustafson, commissioned by Celestial Seasonings for Green Chamomile tea box
Celestial Seasonings, Boulder, north central Colorado
Celestial Seasonings, Boulder, north central Colorado

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ancient, historic radiation of tea outward from Ya'an: Junction of Sichuan and Yunnan branches of Ancient Tea Route occurred hundreds of miles west of Ya'an in eastern Tibet's Markham County, near Sichuan border.

Numbered among 7 counties administered by prefecture-level city Ya'an is Baoxing, type locality for Giant Panda.
Markham County, eastern Tibet Autonomous Region
Markham County, eastern Tibet Autonomous Region
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

A Visual Celebration of Giant Pandas by Fanny Lai and Bjorn Olesen

Fanny Lai and Bjorn Olesen, both wildlife enthusiasts, followed in the giant footsteps of the shy and enigmatic giant panda, and captured both adults and cubs on camera in close-up situations. Beautifully photographed, in rarely seen settings.
giant pandas in books

Panda in china bowl: black t-shirt ~ Available via Allposters

Dinnerware Sets - Panda in China Bowl
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Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) lying on back, eating bamboo Wolong Reserve, Sichuan, China: photo by Jean-Paul Ferrero

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box of dimensions 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top.
Photo Jigsaw Puzzle - Ardea Wildlife Pets

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/24/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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DerdriuMarriner on 08/27/2014

Very nice choices for favorites! They're both endangered and have beautifully furry light parts. It's definitely a clever move -- hopefully beneficial to the environment, the pandas, and the workers as well as to the inventor -- to associate the beloved giant panda with beloved organic tea (there are many "teapots with legs" throughout the world ;-]).

WordChazer on 08/26/2014

After polar bears, pandas are my favorite wild animal. Pandas AND tea? This teapot with legs thanks you. Hope Gusty enjoys her treats. ;-)

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