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11 panda facts that are really just an excuse to look at some pandas.

There are a lot of things you might not know about the no longer endangered species.

11 panda facts that are really just an excuse to look at some pandas.

In September 2016 news broke that the giant panda was no longer considered "endangered" and there was much rejoicing.

Panda party.

Thanks to the incredible conservation efforts of the Chinese government and international groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the species is now classified as "vulnerable." Conservation efforts began back in the 1960s, when four panda reserves were set up in China and hunting the species was outlawed.


It's always a victory when a species starts bouncing back from extinction, but here's so much more to these gentle giants than most people even know.

Here are 11 other awesome reasons to celebrate the great giant panda:

1. Giant pandas have a bone in their wrists that acts like an opposable thumb.

Photo via Virginie Feflour/Getty Images.

Thought apes were the only ones who could grip things like humans? Guess again. Pandas actually have six "digits" on each paw, including something called a radial sesamoid — a bone in their wrist that acts as an extra digit, similar to a thumb, and allows them to hold and munch on thin bamboo rods with ease.

2. Dogs can make great surrogate parents to baby pandas who are abandoned at birth.

That's about the size of a stick of butter. Photo by STR/Getty Images.

While it is rare for a female panda to have twins, if she does, all her attention will go to the larger, more capable cub, and she will abandon the other. This sounds cruel, but it's part of natural selection and, often, the only way any panda cubs survive at all.

Conservationists, however, have discovered dog moms make great substitutes when panda moms reject their young. Dog milk is similar enough to panda milk that if a new dog mom accepts the panda baby into her puppy litter, the baby panda is much more likely to survive.

3. America received its first pair of pandas thanks to President Nixon.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Even though the Cold War was going on, Nixon famously extended an olive branch to Chairman Mao Zedong and the People's Republic of China in 1972.

As a thank-you, Chairman Mao gave America its first two giant pandas: Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling. An estimated 75 million visitors got to see them throughout their long lives at the National Zoo.

4. Female giant pandas only ovulate once a year.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Once a year, female giant pandas become fertile for a mere two to three days. This extremely tight procreation window makes the species' population increase all the more significant and amazing, especially considering females often only have one or two babies at a time.

5. Their bamboo diet is actually not very nutritious.

Photo by Peter Parks/Getty Images.

The giant panda diet consists almost entirely of bamboo, which is rather lacking in nutrients. As such, the species is known to eat an estimated 26-48 pounds of bamboo a day.

6. While the species has been upgraded from "endangered" to "vulnerable," climate change may hurt the giant pandas' population growth and land it back on the endangered species list.

Tourist looking at bamboo forest. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

Due to the giant pandas' proclivity for bamboo (and need to eat a lot of it), the species could end up back on the endangered species list because climate change is predicted to eliminate 35% of pandas' bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.

7. Giant pandas play a vital role in the conservation of bamboo forests.

Photo by John Thys/Getty Images.

While eating all that bamboo, giant pandas are helping spread bamboo seeds around, which in turn helps new bamboo plants grow. In saving the giant pandas, China is saving the bamboo forests, and all the other species that live in them.

8. Giant pandas might look like roly-poly land dwellers, but they're actually magnificent tree climbers.

Photo by Karen Bleier/Getty Images.

Their broad paws and retractable claws are extremely helpful in all tree-climbing scenarios.

9. Giant pandas communicate by rubbing their butts on things.

Photo by Roslan Rahman/Getty Images.

Pandas don't see too well, but they have a great sense of smell. When they want to send a message, they rub their anal glands on the ground, rocks, and trees. The message could be anything from, "Hey, let's meet up here!" to "I'm looking to get busy with a mate!"

10. They've got huge molars to crush all those bamboo stalks.

Photo by Paul Bronstein/Getty Images.

The giant panda's diet is 1% carnivorous (meaning, 99% of what they eat is vegetation, though they've been known to eat meat on occasion); giant pandas have the largest molars of all carnivores. Of course, unlike their carnivore cousins, giant pandas use them for crushing bamboo stalks rather than bone.

11. Because the species is elusive and lives in remote, getting an accurate count for the giant panda population is challenging.

The process of estimating the growth of the giant panda population has been one of the most extensive in history for one entire species.

Giant panda hiding (not really). Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images.

The official estimate of their numbers is 2,060, but studies have shown there might actually be more like 2,500 to 3,000 out there in the world today.

Whatever the number is, hopefully it will continue going up. There's still much to be done in terms of conservation, but all things considered, the giant panda is definitely on the right track.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."