In Defense of the Red Panda by Robyn

Red Panda, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, originally uploaded by Steve W Lee.


In early February, the National Zoo welcomed the arrival of Tate, the red panda bear sent in from the Cape May Zoo in New Jersey. And no one cared. I mean, it was reported on by DCist and a few local news channels, and given a blurb in WaPo, but the majority of the public still had stars in their eyes from the Zoo’s glamour days with the red-carpet entrance of Tai Shan the baby panda bear. Poor Tate. Most people don’t even notice the red panda habitat at the zoo, bypassing it entirely while bee-lining for the giant pandas. The giant pandas that, if they ever venture to come out, don’t DO anything but eat and stare at their bellies. One time I was there and a kid who was racing to see Tai Shan stopped momentarily beside the red bears just to point at them and call them “boring pandas,” leaving them feeling dejected and undoubtedly depressed. I’m encouraging all to boycott the gluttonous, overrated, Star Jones’s of the Zoo celebrity creatures and instead consider the adorable, livelier, and severely overlooked red panda bears. Tate and his friend Shama are attention seekers. Unlike the apathetic Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the more colorful duo WANT to be watched. They’re cute and move around more, and play for the (lack of) camera, and deserve more ‘ooohhhs’ and ‘awwwws.’ If you’re ever feeling underappreciated, pay a visit to Tate and Shama and feel their pain.

Also underappreciated – the mouse with the gigantic teeth. Those guys are terrifying.

What other zoo creature gets unmerited neglect? What’s your goto spot at the zoo?

29 Comment

  • the capibaras!

  • The red pandas are my favorite! Finally, somebody gets it.

    Ooh, it’s going to be super nice this weekend, what a great time to hit the zoo! Good idea!

  • I too dig the red pandas. I must say my most amusing viewing experience was the flamingos. They just kept walking in a group back and forth making their little honking sounds, I watched for at least five minutes giggling. Not sure why, but dang funny.

  • Cuttlefish

  • NiNi says her favorite color is the color purple. So if a red panda and a blue panda make babies can we have a purple panda please. NiNi also wants this purple panda as a pet but promises that there will be no faces taken off because that purple panda will be schooled in how to act right. No one will ever have to say can I get my face back.

  • I am in love with the Arapaima fish, in the Amazonia exhibit. They remind me of like some sort of molded plastic model of a gigantic prehistoric fish, and are definitely the one animal I see every time I go to the zoo.

  • The red pandas are always the first and last (4pm is feeding time!) exhibit I head to when I go to the zoo. Love them to bits — there’s a great Flickr pool of them, too. I’m with Kalia on the capybaras, and I also looove the cassowary because it is so dang cool lookin’.

  • This little critter is SO much cuter than Tai Shan! Tai Shan will share the fate of a boyfriend I once had who hit his peak early in life with the “great touchdown of ’95” for his high school team. Things have been on a steady decline ever since. He is now one of those creepy beer-gutted guys that hangs out in age-inappropriate bars so he can hit on 20-year olds with tales of his former athletic prowess.

  • Red pandas are awesome! And it was a red panda that trained the panda in the movie kung fu panda (highly underrated due to walle)

  • I

  • Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs! Everytime I cut through, I stop for at least a minute!

  • The Think Tank. They are teaching Orangutans to read! Beats those lazy, boring, overrated pandas any day.

  • I think it’s the zoo itself that needs a lesson in red panda appreciation. I didn’t even know they had a new one, and I’m a member!

    I’m on board with all the red panda love here. They’re near the top of my list when they’re awake and playful. Unfortunately, the last few times I’ve been, there’s been no sign of them.

    I also like the fishing cat. That’s one mean-looking kitty. And otters. Who doesn’t love the otters?

  • I like the rhinos. Oh yeah, they don’t have rhinos anymore. boo hiss.

  • The O lines – if you are there when it happens – man the excitement.

  • Ha, “Star Jones of the zoo”… nice.

    And holy crap that picture is so cute I just about slapped the guy sitting next to me.

  • Golden Lion Tamarins are my favorite!

  • Ooh, anyone remember the pygmy marmoset? A teeny little monkey the size of your thumb, with his itty-bitty monkey face… He was my favorite!!! He’s gone now…

  • the hippo! did they get rid of him too?

  • The otter who just swims around his tank all day doing back flips is my fav and definitely under-watched!

    But I have to admit, I do love my fat, lazy panda. Even when they’re scarfing down bamboo they’re entertaining. 🙂

  • Not sure why my last post was only the first word. But I wrote that I heart the red pandas. I am so glad that they gave them a new habitat in the Asia Trail. Their last enclosure was so small and all the panda did was pace around and around, it was so sad. They are so cute and apparently there was one in Japan called Futa, who could stand up on his hind legs, which apparently is rare for a red panda. They are so cute, glad the zoo got a friend for the other one.

  • The orangutans on the O line! Between 11-11:30, usually.

  • Here is a link to a video showing Futa and how he stands up.

  • Futa is pretty darn cute. I wonder what the captions are about. I imagine something like “super cute good luck panda!”

  • Red pandas are tops in my book. It was so unfortunate 6 or so years ago, when piss poor zoo management led to the death of one of two red pandas – poisoned from ill placed rat poison. This, and other events, cost the Zoo Director her job, but brought about many needed changes in the zoo’s administration.

  • This red panda bear needs a facebook page! Then, others will take notice.

  • I’ll second the Amazonia Exhibit. Those giant fish are fun to watch on feeding day. The Zoo does a good job promoting those boring giant Pandas.

  • red pandas or the Asian river otters are the clear standouts.

  • It’s about time someone gave those g-damn giant pandas their comeuppance. they are so boring! they do nothing! and you can hardly ever see them! Who cares if they can have babies or not? let’s send them back to China.

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