“When I first met Yaba, I was so nervous I threw up on a fern in her enclosure.” Norman Spitzer sat back in his metal chair wearing a satisfied grin. He took a sip of water from a Styrofoam cup held delicately as a champagne flute, wrists handcuffed together.
“You must understand,” he said, “Yaba was the last female giant panda in captivity, and the first panda I ever met in person, so I had worked myself into a fit of anxiety before going in. That is not to say I’m anything less than a panda fanatic. True, the world is brimming with enthusiasts; you’ve seen those teenage girls who carry a panda bear plush around the mall like a fashion accessory, or a street canvasser in boho sandals and a World Wildlife Foundation vest, cornering pedestrians with guilt.