In the early 1900’s a flurry of new animals were being discovered as explorers ventured deeper and deeper into the unknown regions of the world. In the 1930’s the animal to find became the Giant Panda, which at the time was only known from a few dead specimens. Live animal collector and adventurer, William H. Harkness, fresh from his success searching for the Komodo dragon, answered the call to find the Giant Panda, organizing a grueling expedition for the New York Zoological Society and the Bronx Zoo.
The Harkness expedition was to go to Tiber and return with the first specimen of Giant Panda, However permit politics delayed the team which was forced to turn back by the unstable situation. While waiting for the permit issues to clear up, William Harkness passed away in Shanghai, his widow, Ruth Harkness, a socialite and clothing designer in New York set out on a slow boat to China, when she arrived she took over control of the expedition.
Ruth Harkness’ expedition was granted the permits needed to begin their search and after ten unsuccessful days in the wild the team found a live Giant Panda, a cub which was being kept by a villager. It is unclear how Ruth obtained the cub from the village but in 1937 she and her team returned to Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo with the first captive Giant Panda, named Su-Lin. On a second expedition Harkness returned with two more Giant Pandas, a creature which eluded other searchers for decades had now been brought back a three times by Ruth Harkness.
Today the Giant Panda is still considered to be a highly endangered animal, becoming the logo animal for the World Wildlife Fund. Ruth Harkness’ Giant Panda expeditions still ranks among the most important cryptozoological efforts of the last one hundred years, bringing an animal from the shadows of the unknown into the light of scientific awareness.
Quick Info: (where applicable)
Date of Birth: September 21, 1900
Birthplace: Titusville, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Current Location: NA
• The Lady and the Panda (1938)
• The Baby Giant Panda (1938)
Schooling and/or Degrees: NA