Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gu Gu Attacks Again. Mammals Defend Their Territories. It's not exactly brain science.

Gu Gu, a 240 lb. panda at the Beijing Zoo recently attacked a visitor who jumped in to his pen.

Q: What do Gu Gu, An An and Yang Yang have in common - with each other, with us, and with all mammals?

A: A reptilian brain and a limbic brain. The limbic brain makes them "cuddly", at least to their own. Like all mammals, they take care of their young, etc. Their reptilian brain, which we also have (the first to evolve), makes them have an instinctive drive to defend their territory. Just like we do. (35% of Texans now own a firearm.) But Gu Gu, An An, and Yang Yang lack the crowning glory of the human being, the neocortex, which might tell them what is a serious breach of territory.

Today (I assume), according to, Gu Gu, a 240 lb. panda at the Beijing Zoo attacked a visitor who jumped in to his (her? we do not know) pen. Gu Gu has attacked two others who have done this. In this case, zookeepers had to use tools to pry open the panda's jaws.

This article on has at its side a "special feature" video, Pandas at Play, calling them cute and cuddly.

December 8, a giant panda named An An in a Hong Kong zoo attacked its keeper.

In November 2008, a college student who "just wanted a hug" was bitten by Yang Yang in a southern China (Beijing zoo, not sure). The student later said the panda was 'so cute and cuddly he never expected to be bitten'.

Pandas are mammals, like humans. When someone violates our space, threatens our territory, we react. It's instinctive to defend your territory. Two others have jumped in to Gu Gu's pen - one a teenager, another, a "drunk" - and Gu Gu attacked, or defended his territory - depending on your perspective.

IT'S NOT SMART, IT'S NOT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, TO JUMP SOMEONE ELSE'S TERRITORY. In human beings this can be extended to mental and emotional space, as well as physical. It's no joke. It made it into the beginning of the Constitution, after all.

We hope the man, unnamed, recovers, and that zookeepers will do the smart thing - restructure the situation so that people can't just jump in. Right now there is only a 5' retainer.

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