Basic Facts About Pandas
Looked upon as the ambassador for all endangered species, the giant panda is a well-recognized symbol of international wildlife conservation. Giant pandas have black fur on their ears, around their eyes (eye patches), muzzle, legs and shoulders. Good tree climbers, pandas can also swim to escape predators. Pandas use an enlarged wrist bone that looks like a thumb to grasp objects like bamboo.
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Pandas eat bamboo. Since giant pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore, they do not have the ability to digest cellulose (plant matter) efficiently and thus derive little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. So, the average giant panda has to eat as much as 20 to 45 lbs (9-20 kg) of bamboo shoots a day. On occasion, giant pandas are also known to eat flowers, vines, tufted grasses, green corn, honey and rodents.
Today, an estimated 2,000 pandas are found in the wild. By the end of 2006, there were a reported 180 pandas in captivity on mainland China and about 20 in other countries.
Did You Know?
At birth, panda cubs typically weigh 4-8oz (100–200g) and measure around 6 inces (15cm) long.
Historically pandas lived in both mountainous and lowland regions of central-western and southwestern China. They are now found only in the mountains of central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
Giant pandas are found mostly in thick bamboo and coniferous forests (evergreens with seed cones) at 8,500 to 11,500 feet in elevation. They are generally solitary animals that spend most of their days feeding. However, they do communicate with each other once in a while through scent markings, calls and occasional meetings.
Unlike other bears, giant pandas do not hibernate. In the winter, they move to lower elevations to keep warm, while traveling to higher elevations in the summer to stay cool. They can be active at any time of the day or night.
Pandas do not have permanent homes but sleep at the bottom of trees under stumps and rock ledges.
Did You Know?
Pandas have evolved special features to help them eat their favorite food: strong jaws, large molars, and a "thumb" that helps them hold the bamboo while they eat!
Mating Season: March-May.
Gestation: 3-5 months.
Litter size: 1-2 cubs.
Cubs are born blind and helpless and if there are twins, only one cub survives. The cub's eyes open at six to eight weeks and it starts to move around at three months. Weaned at six months, the cub becomes independent after a year. They may, however, stay with their mothers for up to three years before they strike out on their own.
Height: 2.5 feet (.8m) at shoulders.
Length: 5 ft (1.5m) (with a 6 inch (.2m) tail).
Weight: Around 250 lbs (113 kg) (males); around 220 lbs (100 kg) (females).
Lifespan 20-30 years in captivity