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On Sunday:
Giant panda cub named Bao Bao in US zoo ceremony
2 December 2013 Last updated at 13:07 GMT
News Report here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-25186781

Bao Bao web cam
Photo of Bao Bao taken from the Panda Cam: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/webcams/giant-panda.cfm
Watch Bao Bao live on the Panda Cam at the above link! You can see Bao Bao breathing, rolling over, etc. Better viewing is daytime US Eastern Standard Time.

Besides having a nice ring to it, the name of the new US Smithsonian National Zoo giant panda means precious or treasure. And, indeed it is precious in so many ways. There are probably less than 2,000 Giant Pandas alive in the world today. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_panda
Habitat loss and fragmentation often related to mining make pandas endangered in the wild.

Whether in the wild or captivity the giant panda is slow to reproduce. In the best of conditions it can have 5 to 8 cubs in a lifetime. This may be compared to the mouse who can have a dozen offspring, multiple times per year. “The giant panda has lived in bamboo forests for several million years. It is a highly specialized animal, with unique adaptations.http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/giantpandas/pandafacts/ (bold added)
Adult Panda Smithsonian Panda Cam Adult Panda still photo from the live Smithsonian Panda Cam: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/webcams/giant-panda.cfm

Where are these bamboo forests?
Giant pandas live in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict giant pandas to the mountains.

What do these forests look like?
Giant pandas live in broadleaf and coniferous forests with a dense understory of bamboo, at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. Torrential rains or dense mist throughout the year characterizes these forests, often shrouded in heavy clouds.http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/giantpandas/pandafacts/ (bold added)

As the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature, previously World Wildlife Fund, has remarked “The giant panda is perhaps the most powerful symbol in the world when it comes to species conservation. In China, it is a national treasure, and for WWF the panda has a special significance since it has been the organization’s symbol since 1961 when WWF was formed…http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/giant_panda/

According to the WWF:
Ongoing threats to the panda’s survival

Despite the conservation success in the panda’s habitat in recent years problems still persist.

The major factors contributing to habitat loss and fragmentation — the most pressing threats to the giant panda — are:
conversion of forests to agricultural areas,
medicinal herb collection,
bamboo harvesting,
poaching, and
large-scale development activities such as road construction, hydropower development, and mining.

The illegal wildlife trade and the natural phenomenon of bamboo die-back are also threats.

Because of China’s dense and growing human population, many panda populations are isolated in narrow belts of bamboo no more than 1.2km wide — and panda habitat is continuing to disappear as settlers push higher up the mountain slopes.http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/giant_panda/problems/ (bold added by us for emphasis)

From Greenpeace:
Sichuan’s pandas threatened by … mining companies
Video | 2013-04-16
Mining and road construction has forced the local giant panda population of Longmen Mountain, Sichuan into an ever smaller and fragmented area. The panda is supposed to be one of China’s most loved animals. How can we be willing to let their lives fall wayside in the name of economic development? In addition to impacting the native giant panda population, a Greenpeace report has revealed that phosphate mining in Longmen Mountain greatly exacerbates the risk of landslides and other geological disasters, threatening the safety of miners and residents downstream.


http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/multimedia/videos/food-agriculture/phosphate-mining-dangers-pandas/

Misssissippi Professor Finds Pandas Can Help Biofuel Production

MSU professor finds pandas may aid biofuel production
By Laci Kyles
Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station
Mississippi Ag &  Forestry Experimental Research Station Panda
MISSISSIPPI STATE – A Mississippi State University assistant professor is looking to ‘panda poop,’ or microbes in panda excrement that breakdown woody materials, as a possible means to biofuel production.

Mississippi State University researchers recently discovered several species of microbes in panda excrement that could be replicated and used to process biofuels. (MSU’s Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology/Ashli Brown)

Ashli Brown, a biochemist in MSU’s Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology, recently discovered that microbes in panda feces are strong enough to break down the toughest plant materials. According to Brown, panda poop might help overcome one of the major challenges to producing biofuels: breaking down the raw plant materials used to make the fuels“. Read the entire article here: http://msucares.com/news/print/agnews/an11/110922panda.html

The professor, Dr. Ashli Brown, has recently been named State Chemist for Mississippi and director of the Mississippi State Chemical Lab:
Brown named new lab director, state chemist
Office of Public Affairs
September 16, 2013
Starkville, Miss.–An accomplished Mississippi State researcher and administrator for the Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory is taking the helm of that state agency housed on the land-grant institution’s campus.

Ashli Brown has been named State Chemist and director of the MSCL, effective Oct. 1 and pending formal approval by the Mississippi Senate.

Previously, she served as the MSCL’s director of research and agriculture forensics. The lab provides critical support to Mississippi agriculture — the state’s No. 1 industry, generating approximately $7 billion in revenue in 2012, according to data from the MSU Extension Service. Additionally, agriculture employs nearly 30 percent of the state’s workforce directly or indirectly.

‘The lab’s work affects Mississippians throughout the state every day,’ Brown said.” See complete article here: http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=6209 (bold added)

Ah, so nice to see professors and universities doing good work. This is in keeping with the importance of agriculture to Mississippi and Mississippi State University’s historical tradition of educational outreach to farmers through its agricultural extension service and its historic informal title of Mississippi “cow college” and Bulldog mascot and Cowbell symbol.

The intelligence of this giant panda poop project is in stark contrast to the nincompoop idea of a (thank goodness) retired “emeritus” Mississippi State U. mechanical engineering professor, who has proposed setting up a nuclear waste dump in Mississippi, which, especially given Mississippi’s climate and geology, would poison the land so as to make it unfit for agriculture or life itself. The proposed nuclear dump is about 30 miles away from the University of Southern Miss, which excels in chemistry and has been gaining ground against its northern neighbor of Mississippi State U., especially through excellence in polymer sciences. We believe that panda poop and biofuel is a more effective way of competing with its southern rival than trying to destroy it with nuclear waste-poop.

Think of the brilliance of using agricultural wastes such as corncobs for biofuel with the help of panda poop. That with cow poop can lead towards a bright nuclear-free future. Some days it pays to look down and watch your step, as anyone walking through a cow pasture knows. We need to also look up and reach for the sun and reach out our arms for the wind.