What is so special about this panda?

Xinhua Published: 2018-09-14 17:15:53
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Sprawling on the grass and slowly chewing bamboo with his broad, flat teeth, panda Qi Zai is enjoying the last of the golden autumn sunshine in northwest China.

Panda Qi Zai [Photo: Chinanews.com]

Panda Qi Zai [Photo: Chinanews.com]

Qi Zai is nine years old, but he is not your ordinary panda. He belongs to a rare and ancient subspecies called the Qinling panda, who get their name from the mountain range on which they live.

On paper, Qi Zai is just like any other giant panda. He lives in a similar habitat, enjoys the same diet and exhibits identical behavior to that of his counterparts. His stature may be slightly smaller than his black-and-white cousins, but that is not what makes him unique.

Qi Zai is a brown and white panda with markings that look like faded ink.

Brown pandas have only been seen in the wild on a handful of occasions, and Qi Zai is the only one in captivity. He is a resident at the Shaanxi Rare Wild Animals Rescue and Breeding Research Center.

"Brown pandas are truly a rare treasure," said Ma Qingyi, a vet at the center. "There is no universal explanation why they look like this. Some say it's a recessive gene. Some say it's atavism and others believe it's albinism."

Panda Qi Zai [Photo: Chinanews.com]

Panda Qi Zai [Photo: Chinanews.com]

Life has not always been easy for Qi Zai. When he was barely two months old, he was abandoned, but luckily, he was found by forest rangers.

"Had we found him a few hours later, he would not have survived," said Ma.

Thanks to the team at the center, Qi Zai now weighs 120 kilograms and enjoys life much like other giant pandas -- sleep, eat, repeat.

What more could a healthy, male panda need? A mate! The team at the center are looking at potential partners for this very special panda.

Shaanxi has a natural habitat of more than 360,000 hectares that supports around 345 wild pandas.

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