Giant Panda of Sichuan

The first specimen of a Giant Panda came to Europe in 1869.  Armand David, a Christian missionary, was posted to Beijing, China. David was also a naturalist, and he collected many specimens to send back to the Museum of Natural History in Paris. While stationed in Sichuan, hunters in his employ brought him the body of a young black and white bear. He dutifully sent the skin back to Paris, and in his letter with another naturalist he remarked “I have not seen this species in the museums of Europe and it is easily the most pretty I have come across; perhaps it will turn out to be new to science!” [ref] [/ref] It took a long time, before further examples of Giant Pandas came to light, and it wasn’t until 1936 that the first Panda was displayed outside of China in a zoo [ref] [/ref]. While distance and communication was difficult in the ancient world, leading to distortions, such as the possibility the Indian rhinoceros was a unicorn, the Giant Panda did not seem to be well known inside China either. Chinese art depicting Giant Pandas was very rare before the 20th century. [ref] [/ref]… Continue reading

Gorillas emerge from the mists

When it comes to reports of mythological creatures from far away lands, it is interesting to look at a real-life creature and see how difficult it was for information about its existence to travel. Take for example, the Gorilla. The earliest report outside of Africa of what could possibly be gorillas comes from the Greek explorer Hanno, who travelled the Western coast of Africa, and spoke of “an island filled with savage people, most of them women, and covered on hair. Our interpreters call them gorillae.” Hanno was from Carthage (modern day Tunisia) and had sailed around the coast down to modern day Sierra Leonne or even the Gulf of Guinea. Hanno goes on to say that he tried to capture some of them alive, but on failing to do, he returned with three dead females. [ref] [/ref] It is not certain though if Hanno actually came across Gorillas or Chimpanzees on his journey, and afterwards there is little further information in the European literature until the bestselling adventure of Andrew Battel published in 1613. Battel was an English sailor who was held prisoner by the Portuguese in Africa for many years.  He speaks of two kinds of ape,… Continue reading