As we warmly welcome furry expats, Feng Yi and Fu Wa, to Malaysia, here are long-winded answers to four maddening questions about giant pandas to help you better understand these enigmatic cuties.
What exactly is the giant panda?
Although its common Chinese name xiong mao literally translates as "bear cat" and it bears passing resemblance to Doraemon, the giant panda – its scientific name, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, means "black-and-white cat-foot" – is not a cat. But what kind of animal it actually is has baffled scientists for the better part of the past century.
When Europeans first saw and described the monochromatic animal in the late 19th century, they thought it resembled a bear and called it a bear. But when scientists took a closer look at the giant panda’s bones and habits in the 1960s, they found it had both bear and raccoon traits. Left somewhat confused, they subsequently left it in the raccoon family, Procyonidae.
Then, in 1985, during the early days of DNA mapping, scientists searched the giant panda’s DNA for more clues. Their findings earned it a return to the Ursidae family – in other words, yes, it’s a bear.