For most of my 16 years I held a rather low opinion of the giant panda as a species. After learning a few things about pandas, I judged them to be a failure in God’s creation that Were poorly adapted to nature. I often preached this rather shallow theory to others, feeling as though it were some sort of cosmic joke that such an animal had managed to live at all. With such arrogance I arrived at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding for summer camp. However, the experience changed me and I have not joked about pandas in this way since.

After the first lecture I was horrified by giant panda statistics that I had had not known before. Less than 1,600 wild pandas were alive on planet Earth as determined by the 3rd National Giant Panda Census, Giant pandas successfully thrived in nature for over 8 million years, but it was not until modem times that the animal became critically endangered due to habitat fragmentation and over-exploration caused by human activities. The destruction of panda habitats has created uneven distributions of panda populations. In turn severe famines have taken place when the bamboo has bloomed, which is a natural process that takes place just before the plant dies. What shocked me the most was the realization that the terrible situation of giant pandas was caused by humans.

The very next day I interacted closely with pandas for the first time in my life. All of them seemed happy and healthy, and the work went smoothly until I met Xiao Pingping. He was the oldest panda and as a result, he moved slowly and wearily. I spent several minutes calling him to eat the apple enrichment I was offering to him, but when he stood up and looked at me I suddenly felt a wave of serenity wash over me. I gazed into his eyes and to my surprise; I caught a glimpse of his soul. Wise and weathered with broken teeth and dull claws, his slim body moved peacefully and I felt sympathy the weakness and age in his body.

During the first few years of the Chengdu Panda Base, wildlife protection personnel searched for sick or injured pandas throughout Sichuan province. One of the first pandas to be found was Xiao Pingping, His was a remarkable success story as he overcame challenges and produced a large number of offspring in his lifetime.

Once again; Xiao Pingping finished his bamboo stick and lifted his head toward me. This time I not only saw him inside, but also saw the reflection of myself, a skinny little teenager.

Why are we here? I guess Xiao Pingping and all of us should ask the same question. Created by the almighty God, we share the planet with various kinds of animals. Though giant pandas have already become critically endangered, they have decided to take a stand and fight for their right to survive, just like what Xiao Pingping did. As the most intelligent species on Earth, have we humans played a proper role in nature? Since we have challenged the existence of our fellow creatures and even nature itself, we are our own biggest threat Will we fight like the giant pandas or disappear in the numbness of extinction? It is hard to tell, is it not?

I have to say, that little glimpse had a profound impact on me. It not only turned my sympathy into deep empathy for giant pandas, but also gave me hope; the hope of rescuing a species from jeopardy. Our fellow companions, the endangered animals, still fight gloriously, and we are not alone.