Behind the scenes of every cute baby panda, there's a mama bear.

On Sept. 4, 2016, the conservation status of giant pandas was updated from "endangered" to the less critical "vulnerable." That's great news!

After all, who wouldn't want to see more of these fluffy little faces in the world?‌‌

Ever wonder what a 5-month-old panda looks like? #worldwildlifefund #wwf #panda #babyanimals #adorable


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The announcement, made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, came after a documented 17% rise in the wild panda population over about the last decade.

"The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity," stated Marco Lambertini, the director general of World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The public's reaction to an increase in baby pandas? "Awwwwwww."

GIF via Disneynature's "Born in China."

But there's someone else behind the scenes of these cute baby pandas and all the conservation efforts: the mother bears.

Panda cubs at breeding centers and zoos get a lot of help from their human caretakers. But for pandas in the wild, a strong mother-cub relationship is necessary for survival. Without it, all the international efforts to save the species would have no effect.

Here are a few things that make the mother-cub bond in pandas so special:

When baby pandas are born, they're about 1/900th of their mother's weight.‌

A newborn panda in an incubator. Image via iStock.‌

Newborn panda cubs average 3.5 ounces — about the size of a stick of butter. Yes, a stick of butter! They don't open their eyes for up to two months, and they're basically immobile for three.

Panda biologist Dr. David Kersey, an associate professor at Western University of Health Sciences, explains in an email, "Among mammals with placentas, the giant panda cub is the smallest offspring compared to the mother."

A young panda cub. Image via Disneynature's "Born in China."

Because they're born so early, wild panda cubs spend up to two years with just their mothers.

Newborn pandas are altricial, which means they're essentially helpless. For the first couple of weeks, Kersey writes, the mother rarely ventures outside the den, "spending nearly every waking moment rearing and nursing the cub." During this time, "she relies solely on energy reserves to sustain herself and milk production."

Even as the cub ages and the mother returns to foraging, it still relies on her for warmth, protection, food, and more.

Giant pandas don't live in groups and the males never stick around after mating, so the cubs spend time exclusively with their mother until they reach independence. For two years, the pair does everything together; every day is a lesson in survival.

By the time a wild panda cub leaves its mother, it has all the skills and knowledge it needs to survive on its own.

At around 14 months, cubs begin eating bamboo on their own. Between 18 and 24 months, they wean from the mother and the pair separates.

A mother panda and her cub. Image via Disneynature's "Born in China."

Giant pandas are still a vulnerable species, but their numbers are improving.

The WWF estimates that there are about 1,864 pandas left in the wild, spread across 20 or so pockets of bamboo forest. The species' biggest threat is habitat loss due to development in the region and climate change.

Image via Disneynature's "Born in China."

Despite their low numbers, the progress that pandas have made over the past decade is a great sign for the future.

But as Kersey writes: "Our work is certainly not done. The protections and efforts afforded to the giant panda while it was endangered helped in improving the species’ numbers." The future of the giant panda shouldn't have to rest solely on those mother bears. The species is going to need our help, too.

Want to learn more about these amazing animals? See "Born in China" during opening week and Disneynature will make a donation in your honor to the World Wildlife Fund to benefit wild pandas and other threatened species.

Watch the "Born in China" video here:

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As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

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via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

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Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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