‘I killed the last giant panda to save the world’

It was the most majestic animal he’d ever seen.

Inspired by ‘The Three Body Problem’ by Cixin Liu.  

I

So it wasn’t just a legend. After 48 days and 47 nights searching through the bamboo forests of the Minshan Mountains, bordering Tibet, Liu had finally found him. The locals who had claimed to have caught glimpses of the creature’s ghostly presence had been right: the last male giant panda – the one who could ensure the continuity of the species – really existed. And he was standing just a few feet away.

The animal’s presence was imposing. He was at least six feet tall, and must have weighed more than 160 kilos – far larger than the average for his species. China had already given him a name, which by now the whole world knew: Pan Pan – ‘hope’ in Mandarin. Watching him, Liu was struck by how appropriate the name was. Pan Pan’s black and white markings took on an almost magical blue hue in the moonlight. He snapped a bamboo cane in half, like a child with a stick of licorice.

The last male giant panda – the one that could ensure the survival of the species – really existed

This was the most majestic animal Liu had seen in all his 37 years. He laughed inwardly at the thought that he wouldn’t be able to share this moment with anyone. The rest of the team were back at the base and he was sure no one would believe him. He was alone. Or rather, they were alone: Pan Pan and Liu, Liu and Pan Pan.

The panda abruptly raised its head. The movement was far more agile than Liu would have imagined, it almost seemed as if Pan Pan’s head was on a spring. It was then that the giant panda fixed his good-natured eyes on Liu and stopped chewing. Only Pan Pan’s breathing broke the pact of silence between the two.

He snapped a bamboo cane in half, like a child with a stick of licorice

What happened next was over so quickly that no police report was able to grasp its essence. Over the next 48 hours, the internet was awash with thousands of theories about what had taken place. Most of these were little more than wild guesses, with no basis in reality. The only irrefutable fact was that someone had brutally killed the last giant panda in the world. And Liu – the man who had dedicated his life to the conservation of this endangered species – was the only suspect.  

II

‘I killed the last giant panda to save mankind.’ 

Thus began the statement that Liu made after three days of sepulchral silence. Confined to a cell and guarded 24 hours a day, the conservationist had, at first, refused to say a word. The Shanghai Police Department was under pressure from high-ranking officials and the international community to get answers. There was talk of making an example of Liu. Of punishing him for his barbarism. Of making him face the death penalty. 

Liu had wiped out any hope of securing the future of the giant panda and he deserved to be dealt with accordingly. He had murdered the last breeding male on the planet. He had desecrated the national symbol of China and shattered the dreams of the millions of children who cuddled stuffed panda bears night. No one could understand why he had killed the best-loved animal in the world.

He had wiped out one of the cutest and best-loved species in the world.

‘He wasn’t injured. He didn’t fall from the mountain. He didn’t eat a poisonous plant. I killed him with my own hands after gaining his trust. The blood on my hands and under my fingernails will prove what I’m saying.’ 

The two agents interrogating Liu looked at each other. They were having trouble reconciling his words with his almost Martian coldness.

‘I did it to save mankind,’ he repeated once more. He looked up, eyes defiant, stared straight into the camera and said:

‘If all life is equally valuable, why should the life of one panda be more important than the lives of the entire human race? Right now, species are going extinct at a higher rate than at any other time in human history. Not all endangered species are as loved as the giant panda. Each day a species goes extinct on this planet because its appearance doesn’t inspire our compassion. Ours is an age of mass extinctions! But if it’s a boring brown bird, an insignificant grey moth or an ugly beetle, no one cares. If I can rescue just one species on the verge of extinction, I’ll be happy. My action was meant to demonstrate that no species is more important than any other. Not even the human race. Not saving that giant panda was my way of forcing the world to react, though I know my actions will haunt me for the rest of my life.’ 

Liu fell silent once more.

No species is more important than any other. Not even the human race

III

China found Liu guilty. A public jury accused him of a crime against animals and of committing an outrage against the Chinese nation. He was sent to the gas chamber with no chance to appeal.

Never before had animal rights groups so passionately desired the death of an animal

Never before had animal rights groups so passionately desired the death of an animal. Even if that animal happened to be human. In a final act of clemency, granted by authorities at the request of his family, Liu was given the opportunity to say his last words. Liu didn’t know that more than 415 million people were watching his execution being broadcast live. No awareness campaign or animal rights protest would penetrate more deeply into the collective conscience of the human race than Liu’s final message to the world:

‘In the end, we only save what we love.’ 


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