Giant Vegetarian Panda Eats Meat (Photos)

The Nature Conservancy/via

Never say never. Pandas eat bamboo shoots and leaves. And sometimes a little meat, scientists say. But a picture of a panda eating meat is rare. So check it out: A panda eating a meal of takin, aka Himalayan goat-antelope.

The picture, shared by The Nature Conservancy, was captured by motion-sensor cameras in northern Sichuan, China.

The Nature Conservancy/via

Thankfully, the Giant panda here didn't hunt and kill the takin. That wouldn't be very vegetarian of him, or her. The meat is the carcass of a takin that died several days before due to natural causes, Conservancy reps say. Takins, like pandas, are endangered. Here's a live one.

The Nature Conservancy/via

The panda seen in the meat photos is living in what will be the Motianling County Land Trust Reserve, a project of the Conservancy, Peking University and local government partners. It's the country's first Land Trust Reserve, and "one of the most important remaining pieces of giant panda habitat left in the world," Conservancy scientists say.

It goes to show there's still a lot we don't know about pandas and their behavior, says Zhao Peng, who's leading the Motianling project for the Conservancy. Apparently, they used to be carnivores, but evolved into herbivores.

We probably should protect them in places like this. This reserve is one of the last places on Earth you'll find these endangered pandas living in the wild. Here, there are about 20. In China, about 2,000.

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Tags: Animals | China | Vegetarian