Animal Emotions

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Baby Panda Dies at National Zoo, Mother Grieves

One-week old panda dies of undetermined causes

I'm taking the liberty of posting this as a new and very brief essay to follow up on one that I wrote last week about this panda birth because this tragic death of the young panda (see also for additional coverage) must not be lost in the shuffle and barrage of emails people receive. In my previous essay I argued that we don't need more baby pandas. Despite some interesting comments to my essay and personal emails I maintain this position. 

Do animals grieve, some wonder? Of course they do. To quote from the article above, "Panda keepers and volunteers 'heard a distress vocalization from the mother, Mei Xiang, at 9:17 am and notified the veterinarian staff immediately,' zoo officials said." There were no outward signs of trauma.

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Let's all light a candle for this most tragic, and some might argue, avoidable loss, avoidable in the sense that the mother panda didn't have to be artificially inseminated to make more babies. People have occasionally offered that babies often die in the wild and it's "natural", however, there's nothing at all natural about this tragic situation in which a female panda was kept in a cage and forced to have a baby. 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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