Friday, January 10, 2014

Panda predecessor

In the United States, the National Zoo’s 4-month-old giant panda cub Bao Bao just made her first appearance before the media. It was less than 150 years ago that the first Westerner laid eyes on the animal. French priest Armand David was sent to do missionary work in China and stationed in the wild mountains northwest of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. David was also a naturalist, who hired hunters to bring him the body of the striking black-and-white bear. Journalist Henry Nicholls retraced David's steps and visited his room in the Dengchi Valley Cathedral (PHOTOS HERE). There he stood next to the table on which the priest may have dissected the panda before rolling up the skin and shipping it to his contact at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. In the note he sent separately, David described the bear's markings and suggested a Latin name. He added, "I have not seen this species in the museums of Europe and it is easily the most pretty I have come across; perhaps it will turn out to be new to science!" It was.

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