Saturday, September 22, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Not Panda-ing to the Crowd

Here is the Zoo's message about the devastating loss of the newborn cub:

We are brokenhearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub. Panda keepers and volunteers heard Mei Xiang make a distress vocalization at 9:17 a.m. and let the veterinarian staff know immediately. They turned off the panda cam and were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m., which we only do in situations of gravest concern. The veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures, but sadly the cub was unresponsive. We’ll have more updates as we learn more, but right now we know is that the cub weighed just under 100 grams and that there was no outward sign of trauma or infection. We’ll share information with you as we learn more.

by Peggy Robin

I've been keeping a list of topics for future columns, including things I have not previously discussed –- for example, I've never written about what people think can and can't be put down a garbage disposal, but it's something I've been kicking around for a while. Also on my list are a few topics I've done once but could always come back to. This latter list is more or less a laundry list of the mundane, including literally, laundry...and dishwashers, grocery shopping, holidays, newspaper delivery, landlines versus cellphones, the vagaries of customer service, and the ever-changing rules of grammar and/or punctuation. 

As you can see, I tend to specialize in day-to-day minutiae of living (there's a reason this column is called Still Life with Robin); I seldom do anything newsy. But every now and then a story comes along that I find so gripping, I know it's just got to be the subject of this column. It can't be just the hot news of the day, whatever's sure to become the next morning's water cooler chatter; we're not talking Topless Kate Middleton or Naked Harry in Vegas or whatever political gaffe made The Daily Show so funny the night before. It has to be an event so revelatory, so groundshaking, that it pulls me entirely out of my ordinary, even trivial concerns, and makes me stop and focus on the wonder --and the fragility-- of life on earth, something that shakes us out of our complacency and makes us believe that somehow, despite astronomical odds, we can triumph. I am talking about an event so awesome, it literally makes you say AWWWW. What else could that be but our new baby panda, born on September 17, 10:46 PM at the National Zoo. Thank you, Mei Xiang and everyone who helped you along the way.

I would add that I simply can't get enough of this good news, but right now, that's about all there is of it. Not that I'm complaining: It's perfectly fine with me that there are so few pictures. I know the Zoo is doing exactly the right thing, leaving Mei Xiang in peace, letting her mother her cub naturally, without unwanted attention. Unlike the hapless (and topless) Kate Middleton, Mei Xiang at least has the illusion of privacy, the feeling of safety and seclusion in her own home. But then Mei Xiang is a more rarified creature. And panda babies seem to be a lot harder to produce than European royalty. (They're usually cuter, too.)

Until this one's health is established and is ready to be introduced to the public, I'll be patient, and in the meantime I'm happy to peek in on mother and cub now and again by means of the very discreet panda cam that the National Zoo has in place: 

There's also this peek-a-boo footage of the Mei Xiang cradling the mostly hidden baby on the Zoo's Flickr page: 

Following Chinese tradition, the baby won't be named until 100 days after the birth -- that's December 24th according to the Zoo. As was the case with Mei Xiang's only previous cub (ultimately dubbed Tai Shan), it's expected that the Chinese government will put forward four names, and the American public will be allowed to vote for the favorite among them. I think it's fair to assume that "Butterstick II" won't make the list. The blog DCist is collecting naming suggestions, nonetheless:

So, until December 24, all hail [To Be Named Later]!


Still Life With Robin is published on Saturdays on the ClevelandPark Listserv and All Life Is Local.

No comments:

Post a Comment