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Help! There's a panda in my living room! Daytime TV teaches us many things. Firstly, that falling over is traumatic and should result in compensation from the people who made the floor, secondly that the best way to sort out your differences is to scream about them in front of a studio audience, and thirdly that pandas are a worthwhile cause. Now, I have a long running feud against the panda, seeing it as the saddest waste of resources since underfloor heating in the penguin enclosure, but that’s another story altogether. No, the panda is my personal pet peeve, quite simply due to its inability to cope with anything which nature throws at it. Not that “it can’t cope with anything,” in the same way that a good four by four can “Cope with anything,” but that it literally can’t cope with anything at all. Not its own food source, not the care of its young, not even the production of its own young. Did you know that of the 300 types of bamboo which grow, the panda will only eat twenty types? That’s twenty types of bamboo out of a possible three hundred. That’s less than eight percent of the possible types of bamboo which it could eat, not to mention the various other shoots and leaves which grow, which I’m sure it wouldn’t kill the creature to have a nibble at now and then. But no, the panda sticks to its favourite bamboo. And every fifty or so years, the bamboo flowers and dies. And for that whole year, as the bamboo regrows, the pandas starve. That’s right, instead of travelling a bit further afield and trying out some new bamboo, it starves. There are currently only one thousand six hundred pandas in the world, and once every fifty years they starve to the brink of death for want of bamboo. It isn’t exactly rare stuff. There’s plenty of other types, and it’s not as if they’re competing with thousands of other pandas for the same plants. Then there’s their record for childcare. Pandas usually have one or two babies, which are born blind, bald and utterly helpless, with bright pink skin and flimsy paws which wave ineffectually at everything but their mother, whom they have exasperating difficulty associating with food. The second baby is nearly always deliberately abandoned to starve to death, and the first is often absent-mindedly sat on by the mother, accidentally starved to death, or otherwise extinguished by the sheer parental incompetence of the panda parent. And when you consider the sheer trouble that it takes to create a baby panda this is an even more phenomenal waste – pandas not only refuse to breed in captivity, but just pretty much refuse to breed. Artificial means are singularly unsuccessful, to the point that one panda birth in captivity is seen as a huge breakthrough, and usually merits a full-page feature in newspapers with pages to spare. Sadly, the picture of the hairless pink cub looking cluelessly at the camera is usually accompanied by the caption; “Unfortunately, little Ping-Pong died two hours after this photo was taken, after being sat upon by his mother as she sorted through a pile of near-identical bamboo canes to find the one which she actually wanted to eat today.” Baby pandas weren't built for survival. Atop this, there is the sheer embarrassment which is the panda's sex drive. It's a species with a headache, that's had a really difficult day and just wants to get some sleep, even at the cost of vanishing forever off the face of the earth. Scientists have tried virtually everything to get pandas to breed, including (And I'm not kidding,) aphrodisiacs, mood lighting and porn. But the pandas still aren't ready to take things to that level yet, still just want to be friends and still are just too chronically lazy to actually do anything as even remotely approaching energetic as make babies. It's all just too difficult. Compare to the panda the plight of the European wolf. Persecuted for centuries as a killer, it is extinct over most of its original range, which included Britain. It isn't even a protected species in some countries, where landowners still hunt it to keep their livestock safe. But it struggles on, scraping whatever living it can, protecting its cubs, travelling for huge distances in pursuit of prey. Such an admirable creature. Why can't the wildlife organisations just take all the money out of the panda fund, which is an evolutionary dead end because it won't even help itself, and put it into reintroducing the wolf to Britain, or even just Scotland, where there's more room? I mean, it would end the need for deer culls, as this new apex predator would keep the numbers down admirably, and maybe even be an end for foxhunting, as the smaller canines' numbers fell. And all the hunters could just stay indoors watching telly instead of being cruelly forced to do their duty and keep down the population of a vile pest. I think that that's worth a few sheep being eaten by wolves now and then. Which finally brings me back to daytime TV. These people suing because they tripped on a kerb, or because they couldn't work out how to drink out of a paper coffee cup, or because they broke a nail and couldn't face going back to work for months. What a bunch of losers, just sitting on the sofa all day, watching trashy talk shows, reruns of soaps, and these ubiquitous advertisements for loans and compensation. I mean what kind of soulless abhuman tries to suck the money out of a totally innocent and pretty much unrelated party, when the only problem was their own clumsiness? Mind you, it did seem attractive, in its own way. I mean, wouldn't it be easier to just wait and hope that someone would give you a few thousand pounds than to have to work for it? Ah, I realise. I look around myself. I'm sitting on the sofa, with the remains of my dinner on a tray on the floor, wearing a washed out tee shirt with curry dribbled down the front. My hair isn't brushed, my face isn't washed. Why bother? I mean, nobody's going to see me. I probably haven't moved other than to change channel or go to the toilet in about six hours. I am a panda. I'm not the courageous European wolf, struggling to survive in a hostile environment, fighting all the way. I'm not the one which braves the guns of the farmers and the gamekeepers to steal a few morsels for itself and its family. I'm the panda, starving to death surrounded by food, just out of sheer laziness. I need to do something. Anything. Go for a bike ride, plant a tree, eat something which I haven't just reheated in the microwave. I need to get out of this complacent rut as much as the panda does, because if I don't I'll end up scraping a living from compensation claims about how daytime TV rotted my mind, whilst simultaneously trying to pay back the loan which I took out to get a bigger television. Right, I decide. I'm going out. I'm going to do something totally different. Apathy is no friend of mine. But hey, there's a documentary on pandas on. I might just sit and watch that first.

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