- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Who among us, will dare speak for the sloth bear cub born this month at the National Zoo? I for one, a male human sloth, will be honored to sing its praises. Why? Because if not me, who? If not now, when?

On Saturday, Jan. 21, a Washington newspaper ran a small photo of a bear in need of a serious extreme makeover, with the caption, “National Zoo Sloth Bear is a Mother.” That was it. That was all the publicity the paper, and most of humanity, felt this photogenic-ally-challenged mammal deserved.

Why? Six words reveal the cruelest of answers: “It’s not the adorable panda cub.”

Not to confuse my animal species here, but let’s be very honest with ourselves. The pandas, and most especially the panda cub that was born on July 9, 2005, have become the cash cows of the National Zoo and much of the tourist industry of Washington. Instead of “Tai Shan,” the panda cub’s name should be changed to “Cha Ching.”

What is the poor sloth bear mother supposed to think? I mean, come on. Front-page stories around the world, accompanied by non-stop network and cable newscasts, announced the arrival of tiny, “cute,” “gorgeous,” “magnificent,” “lovable” Tai Shan.

Who carried news of the birth of sloth bear cub? Sure, the Jellystone Gazette may have had it on its gossip page as if speculated on who the father might be — Yogi Bear and Boo Boo both deny involvement, but who else? No one. No one cares about the little guy.

Well I do. And for a very valid reason. If we were to equate the pandas at the National Zoo with the Brad Pitts and Beyonces of the world, and humans much less adorable than Brad and Beyonce, with sloth bears, then I most certainly fall into category of human sloth bear. With a face made for radio, I know Hollywood is not going to cast me as the romantic lead in a film unless Miss Hathaway from the Beverly Hillbillies has already been chosen as the female lead.

Hence, I feel the sloth bear cub’s pain. And unless I need to get some glasses, I suspect that most of us in Washington feel the sloth bear cub’s pain. And yet, we all ignore the nondescript ball of fur as we elbow each other out of the way to get a glimpse the pulchritudinous Panda cub. Shame on us.

In looking at a recent news story about the panda, it started with the words, “The Panda adoring public…” Panda adoring public. Need I say more? The Animal Planet network even has a 24/7 panda cam set up so the world won’t miss a second of the sightly Panda cub.

What does the sloth bear cub get? A zookeeper taking pictures of it with a 12 exposure disposable camera? Where is the justice in the world? Human sloths of the area, I beseech you. Love and support that which certain good-looking, energetic, right-side-of-the-tracks, trust-fund, bear snobs might find horrid, nasty, foul, repellent, lazy, shiftless or vile.

Embrace the newly born sloth bear cub and in doing so, experience a new joy as you free your inner sloth.

DouglasMacKinnon served as press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole. He is also a former White House and Pentagon official, and an author.

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