Name: Giant Panda as distinguished from lesser panda. As it is more widely recognized, when people speak about panda now generally they are refering to the giant panda.
Scientific Name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca, bear family
Color: Normally black and white. Complete white ones have been found in the wild. All four sightings were in the Shaanxi Foping Nature Reserve in Qinling Mountains. The first brown-white one was found there too.
Length of Adult Giant Panda: 120-180cm (about 3.9-5.9 feet)
Weight of Adult Giant Panda: 80-125kg (about 176-276 pounds)
Food: More than 20 kinds of alpine bamboo (especially young fleshy stems and buds, bamboo shoots). An adult panda eats about 40kg (88 pounds) fresh bamboo shoot a day, 14kg (about 31 pounds) bamboo stalks, or 20kg (about 44 pounds) bamboo leaves. It has a greater appetite in summer than winter. In the wild, they may eat other plants and occasionally dead or small animals. Their ancestors were true carnivores. About one million years ago, they began to eat bamboo.
Enemies: Asian golden cat, tiger, panther, jackal, wolf, yellow-throated marten.
When we think of giant pandas, we think of lovely black and white bears. They are cute and have many fans all over the world.
But do you really know pandas? The following are top fascinating facts to help you know more about them.
Giant panda looks cuddly and cute when you search for photos on the internet. But it's much bigger than you think.
An adult panda weight more than 45 kilos (100 pounds), and can be about 1.5 meters (5 feet) long!
Giant pandas can't stand and do kung fu moves like Po in Kungfu Panda. But they are good tree climbers. They can climb trees from 7 months old.
Giant pandas are bears, and like other bears, they can swim.
Pandas are born looking like baby badgers — fur-less, pink, and blind. The iconic black and white colour comes later, after about three weeks.
Not all giant pandas are black and white! A few are brown and white, but these are very rare.
As about all a panda does all day is to eat and sleep, you are best to get up early for a visit to a panda park, so you see them when they are active.
They spend as long as 14 hours eating per day, and spend the rest of their time in sleeping.
In the wild, the giant pandas sleep for 2 to 4 hours between its two meals.
A 45-kilo adult (and pandas can reach 150 kg in captivity) spends as long as 14 hours eating. And it can eat 12 to 38 kilos of bamboo a day.
Pandas' favorite food is bamboo shoots. If you do the Panda Keeper Tour, you can experience to weigh and clean bamboo, and feed pandas.
Pandas can poop as much as 28 kilos/day. In the past the undigested bamboo pieces in the poop were made into picture frames and bookmarks — no, apparently they did not smell!
Panda's poop points in their direction of travel, so they can be easily tracked in the wild. Unfortunately, historically this led to them being more endangered, but now it aids researchers.
Since giant predators like sabre-tooth tigers are no longer around, pandas didn't need to be as fast, and turned into vegetarian specialists to avoid becoming extinct themselves.
We all know them as eating only bamboo, but they like some fruit too, and can eat meat. One panda park we visited had a photo of a panda devouring a vulture.
Although they still have sharp teeth and the digestive tract of carnivores, they don't have the energy to chase anything, so their prey would virtually have to land in their lap, or be injured and too slow to escape.
Pandas are usually born in August, because the panda's mating months are March to May and gestation is 3 to 5 months.
Females mainly produce two offspring, but only the stronger one survives in the wild.
In the research bases in Chengdu, the other twin is hand-reared, and swapped regularly with the mother so she can raise two cubs each pregnancy. Some of the money you pay in entrance fees funds this successful project.
Panda families don’t live together. They are solitary, each female having a well-defined range. Males generally live apart, except for in the short breeding season (March to May), when they compete for female attention. Females raise the cubs alone.
Unlike most other bears, pandas do not hibernate during winter. In winter, they head lower down mountains for warmer weather.
Fossils of pandas have been dated between 1 and 2 million years old. Once pandas were widely distributed across the whole of China. Now they only live in the wild in remote areas of China's Tibetan foothills.
Pandas have a 6th "digit" on the heels of their fore-paws.
With their extra "thumbs" they can manoeuvre the bamboo into fat cigar shapes for efficient eating.
"Pandas are said to have a predilection for copper and iron. They really seem to enjoy licking every scrap of food from their metal bowls, even turning the bowl in their two dexterous paws. "
— from "The Giant Panda" by David Taylor, an interesting source if you want to know more.
Another strange behaviour, but with a modern twist, we witnessed, is them enjoying "fruit lollipops" — fruit frozen in a metal dish of water to cool them down in the heat of summer in Chengdu.
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