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What Do You Know About Pandas?

Photo is courtesy of The World Wildlife Find.

Introductory Facts

Giant Pandas, also known as panda bears, or by their scientific name Ailuropoda melanoleuca, are a species of black-white bear-like herbivores that inhabit the forests in southwestern China. They primarily eat bamboo in the wild, many different bamboo species around 26-84 pounds a day to obtain the needed nutrients. The pandas in zoos get a more variant diet, apples, carrots, and highly nutritious leaf eater biscuits that provide them with the grain, vitamin, and minerals they can benefit from. According to the WWF, females grow to around 200 pounds in terms of weight, while males can grow up to approximately 300 pounds. In 2014, there were 1864 pandas in the wild, which is already a 17% increase from the population in 2004. They became an endangered species in 1990 due to a large amount of deforestation in the 1980s that took away their habitat; since then, the government and The Nature Conservancy have built more than 60 reserves to protect this species. In 2016, they moved up to a vulnerable species, a statue in the “threatened” category, though not yet endangered.

Photo is courtesy of Wikiwand.

Panda’s Role In Wildlife

In the ecosystem, pandas have the significant job of maintaining biodiversity. Specifically, they carry various plant seeds in their fur, and as they roam the forest, by walking on land or swimming in the water, they transport these seeds to different places in the forest, which helps vegetation flourish in all locations. When these seeds drop, they will grow into the plants that make up the unique forests that pandas live in and provide habitats for other animals, like the Crested Ibis and the Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey. They may become the food for some other animals, like the Multicoloured Pheasants and Dwarf Blue Sheep, as explained by the WWF here.

Multi-Coloured Pheasant (Animal Corner). Bamboo Forest (Top China Travel).

Panda’s Life Cycle

When a panda is born, they are about the size of a butter stick, around 1/900th of their mother's weight, says the WWF. They are small and red, very in need of a mother's care and milk. Their fur starts growing within their first week, and they will grow rapidly in size as well. Within a month, they will grow to around 2kg and will have developed a visible white and black coat. Newborn panda bears move around for their first two months, and they start seeing and walking around at about four months. They begin eating bamboo at six months and begin rapidly gaining weight from here too. They will be mature enough to leave their mothers to live alone at around 1.5 years old to 2 years old; pandas are solitary animals, so they live on their own when they can, usually in their defined home range. They can begin to breed as early as four years old, female pandas are only fertile from around 4 to 18 years old, for a two-three day period once every year, and they communicate with others through sound and scent. Once a female panda is pregnant, her gestation lasts for around 3-5 months, and then she gives birth to 1 or 2 baby pandas. In the wild, if she gives birth to twins, she will only care for the one she thinks is stronger to ensure the survival of at least one baby panda. In captivity, keeps will alternate the twins once a month, raising the one twin in a nursery when its mother is raising the other twin, so both can survive. A female panda usually gives birth to 4 to 6 babies in her lifetime. A wild panda's lifespan is around 20 years; when they live in zoos, they can live to about 30 years old, and the oldest that ever lived was Jia Jia, who lived up to 38 years old.

Photo is courtesy of China Highlights.

Oldest panda in captivity ever. Guinness World Records. Retrieved March 1, 2021 from

Featured image is courtesy of Wix.

Article Author: Ivy Sun

Article Editors: Maria Giroux, Stephanie Sahadeo