Giant pandas, also called pandas, are native to China. They’re known around the world for their black and white coloring and cuddly appearance.
Let’s learn more about these loveable bears!
What do giant pandas look like?
Giant pandas are black and white bears. Their bodies are mostly white. Their ears, legs, and shoulders are black, and they have black patches on their eyes.
They are usually 4 to 5 feet tall and weigh about 300 pounds. Giant pandas have thick, woolly coats.
Where do giant pandas live?
Giant pandas once lived in many areas of southern and eastern China, northern Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Today, they live only in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu.
Within these provinces, giant pandas live in bamboo forests in six of China’s mountain ranges.
Most of the remaining pandas are in the Minshan and Qinling mountains.
What do giant pandas eat?
About 99% of the giant panda’s diet is made up of bamboo.
They eat bamboo leaves, stems and shoots. Bamboo has very little nutritional value, so they must eat about 28 pounds of bamboo every day!
To help them eat bamboo, giant pandas have huge, flat molar teeth.
They also have large wrist bones that help them hold and crush the bamboo.
The remaining 1% of the giant panda’s diet consists of other plants and sometimes small rodents, fish, or birds.
Giant panda behavior
Giant pandas are solitary, meaning they live alone. In fact, they use their strong sense of smell to avoid each other.
Males especially avoid other males, and females avoid other females.
When necessary, pandas communicate with each other through scent markings and noises.
They mark their territories by rubbing against objects and clawing tree trunks.
Females usually give birth to one cub after a five-month pregnancy.
Cubs are blind and pink at birth, then all-white until they eventually develop their black and white coloring.
Some large mammals are huge from birth, but not giant panda cubs!
At birth, they weigh just five ounces and are smaller than a stick of butter. They can’t crawl until they are three months old.
Panda cubs stay with their mothers for 18 months before going off on their own.
Giant panda population size
Giant pandas were once classified as endangered. But in 2016, their status was changed to vulnerable. This means that the panda population size is beginning to increase.
Today, there are an estimated 1,864 giant pandas in the wild.
This number is low, but it is an improvement from just 1,000 pandas in the 1970’s. Another 300 live in zoos and breeding centers.
The biggest threat to the giant panda is loss of habitat, especially because they are so dependent on the bamboo plants in their natural home.
They are also sometimes hunted for their fur.
The panda population is increasing because of efforts to protect panda habitats, keep them safe from hunters, and build nature reserves.
Fun Facts About Giant Pandas
- The scientific name for giant pandas is Ailuropoda melanoleuca, which means “black and white cat-foot.”
- The panda is considered a national treasure in China.
- They spend most of their time eating and only sleep for 2-4 hours at a time.
- Giant pandas live for about 20 years in the wild, but have been known to live up to 35 years in captivity.
- At 1/900th the size of its mother, the giant panda cub is one of the world’s smallest newborn mammals relative to its mother’s size.
- Giant pandas are excellent swimmers and climbers.
- Giant panda cubs don’t open their eyes until six to eight weeks after birth.
- Every giant panda has its own unique bite mark, kind of like fingerprints!
- Unlike most bears, pandas don’t hibernate in the winter. They simply head lower in the mountains where the weather is warmer.
- Adult pandas are big and strong, so they don’t face much danger from predators. But panda cubs can be injured or eaten by jackals, snow leopards, and yellow-throated martens.
- Giant pandas are peaceful and usually avoid confrontation. Still, they will fight back and protect themselves if threatened.
- The panda has been the logo of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) since it was founded in 1961. The WWF helps protect endangered animals.
- In the last 10 years, the giant panda population has increased by 17%.
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