In 1988, the WWF authorized George Schaller to study pandas in China. He and his coworkers are the first batches of foreigners invited by the Chinese government to Wolong. Schaller found the biggest threat to the pandas actually was poaching instead of bamboo die-offs. It’s hard to believe that even the best-loved animals have that pathetic period. Besides of these facts of pandas, you can also read about the tedious interaction between the NGOs, zoos, and governments in The Last Panda.

Bamboo blossom

Most bamboos blossom at intervals of many years, then they die. Maybe that’s bamboo’s survival strategy, blossoming and fruiting at the same time will make sure some seeds will survival. The interesting thing is that even you move a bamboo to another continent, it will still blossom contemporary with its cohort. They spread widely through rhizomes, that’s why usually an entire mountain or a region’s bamboos blossom simultaneously. If you plant bamboo in a garden, you need to keep pruning the roots or eating the shoots to control their spread.

Impact on panda

Pandas move to another clump of bamboo or change recipe to adapt the shortage of food. The remain Fargesia are still adequate in Wolong, when Fargesia died in late autumn they eat Fargesia robusta at low altitude area. So pandas may expand the scope of activities, but logging and farming break the connection of bamboo forest. And logging can cause the death of bamboo indirectly. Due to trees are cut down, young bamboo shoots are exposed to sunlight, they will wilt soon. The human activities within the protected area made more impact on pandas than the death of bamboo.

The news reports exaggerated the actual situation and raise the attention of the world. The Chinese journalists only interviewed the county officials and no biologist made any evaluation after a year. The massive aid funds and the pressure from Beijing made every country established unnecessary rescue team.


The tremendous bamboo fruits often lead to an explosion in the rodent population. In Mizoram, the Mautam(Mizo for “bamboo death”) occurs every 48 years. In order to control the plague, the government offers a reward for every rat tail to encourage local people to kill rats. In 1958, the famine caused by plague killed thousands. The Mizo people were angry with the Indian government’s response, they launched a 20-year rebellion.

The first increased the population from 100 to about 600. A second pulse, in June, pushed the number up to 1,000 rats. Now, in early August, they are in a reproductive frenzy: almost quadrupling the horde to 4,000. A fourth pulse will create a ravenous army of close to 12,000 rats.

When that fourth pulse hits, the remaining fruit on the forest floor will have germinated and be inedible. Rice, in the field, will be the rats’ only option.

Rat Attack

Biologist Ken Aplin found the fourth pulse will emerge after approximately thirty weeks after the first fruit appears. The government can prevent famine by predict plague and supply aid rice now. You can watch the Nova documentary Rat Attack on Youtube to learn more about the plague in Mizoram.