National Geographic : 2009 Mar
• century; more than one Tibetan described the decimation to me. Masticating bamboo shoots in a semireclining position, like a sea otter munching mollusks while lounging on its back, the panda has become an endearing emblem for conservationists worldwide and carries a heavy load in this supercharged robber-baron econ- omy. Conservation would be a novel concept to anyone unacquainted with what is supposed to be preserved, such as wildness, wildlife, nat- ural beauty. I noticed at the Beijing Zoo that the visitors seemed to have no feeling one way or another for the apparent thirst of the bears in their waterless pit or the metronomic jack- als and wolves ticktocking in the heat. In the greenery of Chengdu s parks, the din of bird- song was so frenetic and dense as to imply an extreme scarcity of nesting spaces elsewhere. Only recently did the People s Republic bar the serving of delicacies like bears paws at o cial government banquets, about the same time the Dalai Lama, in his Indian exile, urged his fol- lowers to end the wearing of tigers or leopards skins. Edicts can t generate a conservation ethic, Nearly 40 miles of wooden walkways, stairs, and observation decks connect tour bus routes to prime attractions like Pearl Shoals Falls. On peak days thousands of eager visitors strain Jiuzhaigou's limits.