October 15, 2012
Evidence Suggests Prehistoric Man Ate Pandas
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A Chinese scientist claims to have discovered evidence that prehistoric people once killed and ate wild pandas, though the creatures were believed to be much smaller during that time.
Wei Guangbiao, the director of the Institute of Three Gorges Paleoanthropology at a museum in the city of Chongqing, said that he had analyzed Ailuropoda melanoleuca fossils that showed that the creatures had once been "slashed to death" by humans, the Associated Press (AP) reported Sunday.
Those fossils, combined with the previously established facts that primitive man "wouldn´t kill animals that were useless to them," suggests that the pandas were used as food by the populace living in the area at that time, Wei told The Chongqing Morning Post, according to AP reports.
"Pandas, then in plentiful numbers, would have been a ready source of food and a good complement to a diet that consisted mostly of berries and anything else they could trap or catch," the Daily Mail explained. "Given their shy nature, and slow, lumbering walk, the bears would have been easy prey for hunters armed with sticks and stones, and later spears and knives."
Wei said that modern pandas are much larger than those that would have lived in ancient China between 10,000 and one million years ago, the UK newspaper added. In those days, they would most likely have been found in the region's high mountains, where they would have "flourished" because of the cool and wet conditions -- as well as the availability of bamboo, which is the creature's preferred source of sustenance.
"Historians believe panda meat was once a delicacy eaten by the rulers of Ancient China," the Daily Mail said. "Today, the Giant Panda has been on the endangered species list for more than 50 years and is called a 'National Treasure' in China, where there are breeding centers tasked with helping to boost the dwindling population. Latest figures show there are 239 Pandas living in captivity, while the wild population is said to number under 3,000."