Some Scientists Dress Up All Year

SCIENCE

It’s Halloween year-round for some wildlife researchers, who don costumes to get closer to the animals they’re working to save. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to see panda researchers in their natural environment.

Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”

People in giant panda costumes coat a stuffed leopard in feces and urine. Science is serious business. Image courtesy National Geographic's "Destination Wild"

People in giant panda costumes coat a stuffed leopard in feces and urine. Science is serious business.
Image courtesy National Geographic’s “Destination Wild”

Even pandas participate in citizen science projects. Image courtesy National Geographic's "Destination Wild"

Even pandas participate in citizen science projects.
Image courtesy National Geographic’s “Destination Wild”

Boo! Image courtesy National Geographic's "Destination Wild"

Boo!
Image courtesy National Geographic’s “Destination Wild”

Discussion Ideas

 

  • The video doesn’t explain why the scientists are dressed like pandas, but the Nat Geo News article gives you a clue. So, why are scientists dressed like bipedal pandas, and why are they carrying around a frightening stuffed leopard?
    • According to the Nat Geo News article, “[b]y wearing panda suits . . . staff minimize the animals’ stress and human attachment.”
    • The test carried out in the video involved scientists making sure Tao Tao, the juvenile panda, has maintained his natural fear of predators despite having never encountered one. Jackals and leopards are natural predators in the panda habitat. Researchers were not going to let a real leopard in to the protected panda enclosure, so they brought in a stuffed version, covered it in leopard smells (cue the poo!), and played an audio recording of a leopard to see how Tao Tao would react. (He was sufficiently scared.)

 

  • Those panda suits don’t look that convincing, and neither does the leopard. Do you think Tao Tao was fooled by either one? Why?
    • Yes, he was probably fooled. As we learned in the video, pandas have poor eyesight, and the spot-on scents fooled his sophisticated nose.

 

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo News: Why Scientists Wear Animal Costumes—It’s Not Just for Halloween

Nat Geo video: Training Pandas to be Wild

Nat Geo WILD: Destination Wild

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