The Last Refuge: One Woman's Glimpse of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Synopsis: "The Last Refuge" takes you over the formidable peaks of the Brooks Range and into the last wilderness of its kind on the planet, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Through the story of ...
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Diane Mason
16 min

In remote mountains of central China

moisture borne on the monsoons

nurtures a forest world of isolation...

and mystery

Across ages

bamboo [Poaceae (family)] has flourished

in the persistent mists

erecting nearly impenetrable thickets

barriers against time

and the outside world

For nearly a decade

a Chinese scientist has

searched the bamboo

forest for one of the world's

most elusive animals

Though its image is

known to millions

the giant panda

[Ailuropoda melanoleuca] has

kept its life in the wild hidden

from humans

For Professor Pan Wenshi

deciphering the panda's secret

is an urgent matter

The species clings

precariously to existence

Only about

twelve hundred remain

In captivity

pandas have not reproduced enough to

increase or even maintain

their population

If the species is to be saved

we must understand and protect

the secret life of pandas in the wild


an unprecedented opportunity

In a mountain cave

a newborn panda is found...

permitting the first

comprehensive film record

and the first long-term

study of a young panda

embarking on a remarkable life unlike

that of any creature on earth

The Qin Ling mountains...

rugged divide between northern

and southern China...

...and one of the last retreats

of the giant panda

Concealed by dense foliage

and its own distinctive color pattern

the panda is literally

hidden here

In the panda's world

nothing is quite what it seems

The clown-like mask elicits

instant human affection

But it's probably seen as

a threat by other animals...

one of the panda's

many subtle defenses

Pandas are shy

and seldom aggressive

When one is seen,

it is usually retreating

They are solitary animals...

rarely together

But they are aware

of each other...

keeping in touch by sound...

and especially scent

Their social lives consist largely

of reading and leaving scent marks

Rubbing its scent glands

on trees and rocks

a panda says "here I am"

or "there I was"

By smell alone

pandas can tell the identity and

sexual mood

of a neighbor who may go unseen

for months

Almost exclusively

giant pandas eat bamboo

Equipped with a unique sixth

digit ideal for eating bamboo

pandas have been shaped by evolution

for this life-sustaining activity

They consume up to

eighty pounds of bamboo

[Bashania fargesii and

Fargesia spathacea]

a day with great technique

and efficiency

But they're finicky about

this monotonous diet

They eat different parts of the bamboo

in different seasons

Sometimes they prefer the

tender leaves and shoots

while at other times it's the tough

woody stems they crave

It's a lot of word for little reward...

only about 17 percent is digested

So pandas must eat relentlessly

up to 14 hours a day

They eat till they're full

then sleep wherever they are

until they awaken... hungry again

But young pandas

are the exception

To survive they must learn

about the world... they must play

Seemingly vulnerable

the panda has endured while other more

formidable mammals have

become extinct

Its margin of safety is narrow...

but for millions of years

it has been sufficient

Yet an understanding of how

the wild panda survives

has been as elusive as the animal itself

To unlock the panda's secrets

a former logging camp called Shashuping

now serves as a research station

From this base,

biology professor Pan Wenshi

and his students monitor

more than sixty pandas

in the surrounding forest

the first long-term study of

wild pandas and their young

With Lu Zhi, former student

and now a research colleague

Pan has long hoped to discover

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "The Last Refuge: One Woman's Glimpse of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 7 Mar. 2021. <'s_glimpse_of_the_arctic_national_wildlife_refuge_14535>.

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