The giant panda has captured the world's imagination. Its seemingly harmless, playful nature, velvety black and white fur, flat face, softly rounded body and soulful black eye patches combine to make it resemble an oversized and loveable teddy bear (Fig. 1.1). Its upright posture and famous 'panda's thumb' - an elongation of the wrist bone that allows it to grasp bamboo and other food much like people do -further adds to its widespread appeal. From the most prominent government authorities to young children, people are passionate about protecting the giant panda. This fervent interest has caused the panda to emerge as the most highly visible of all endangered species, even though few people have actually ever seen one in the wild. Furthermore, this single species has become a worldwide icon for the need to conserve animals, plants and habitats. Therefore, it is ironic that the giant panda, which evokes so much attention by the public, scientific and conservation communities, still remains such a mystery with so many pieces still missing from a biological jigsaw puzzle that, if solved, could improve species management, welfare and conservation. The purpose of this book is to provide, and then assemble, a few more pieces of this enormous puzzle.

Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management, ed. David E. Wildt, Anju Zhang, Hemin Zhang, Donald L. Janssen and Susie Ellis. Published by Cambridge University Press. # Cambridge University Press 2006.

Figure 1.1. The giant panda (photograph by Jesse Cohen).


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