The Bear Necessities of Protecting
Ever wonder why the giant panda is black and white? As legend goes, long ago when pandas lived n the mountains of Tibet, they were snow white. The bears befriended a group of female shepherdesses who often played with their cubs while they tended their flocks. When a leopard attempted to attack one of the cubs, the women sacrificed themselves, sparing the young bear. The pandas mourned the shepherdesses by following the local custom of wearing black ashes on their arms. In their grief, they cried and rubbed their eyes with ash coated paws, covered their ears to block the sound of their sorrow and hugged each other leaving them with the black and white pattern we see to this day.
Giant pandas are native to China and are considered a national symbol of peace and harmony. Sadly, it is estimated that there may be only 1000 of these bears in the world. When I recently toured China, I was fortunate to visit the Chendu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. My guest today is Dr. Sarah Bexell, the chief director of the Department of Conservation at the Chengdu Research Base. Her focus is keeping mankind from having to wear black ashes on their arms for these marvelous creatures.
Sarah M. Bexell was employed in 2005 as the chief director of the Department of Conservation Education at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. She received a PhD in early-childhood education focusing on conservation science from Georgia State University. She also holds a Master of Science in science education from Georgia State and a Master of Arts in physical anthropology from Northern Illinois University.
She is a member of the Commission on Education and Communication of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), a member of the Task Force on Cities and Protected Areas of the IUCN, board member of GLOBIO, the education advisor to the Giant Panda Species Survival Plan, the education advisor to the Chelonian Taxon Advisory Group, the Society for Human Ecology, the Society for Conservation Biology, the International Society for Anthrozoology, the International Zoo Educators Association, the North American Association for Environmental Education, and the Turtle Survival Alliance.
Sarah M. Bexell has been engaged in animal conservation and environmental education for many years, and began to devote herself to these areas in China beginning in 1999.
Thanks to her help and efforts, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Chengdu Zoo established their own conservation and education departments.
Also, she has participated in many projects related to conservation and education. She trained a number of full-time workers for conservation and education, and edited a 5-day camp book for Chinese students.
With her suggestions, a series of conservation and educational activities are offered at the Base, such as family package tours, 1-day off-campus tour, young zoologist, volunteer service program, and the international internship program.