The giant panda is a unique animal also called the bamboo bear. Today there is a possibility of complete extinction of this species of animals from the face of the earth, in connection with which they are included in the international list of rare animals.
Bamboo bears are a symbol and national treasure of the People’s Republic of China. They were awarded the honorary title of the cutest animal on our planet.
Panda origin and description
These animals belong to the class of mammals and belong to the bear family. Pandas are classified as carnivores, but the pandas’ diet consists mainly of plant foods, although on rare occasions they can feed on eggs, fish and small animals.
To date, there is no clear theory of the evolution of the giant panda. Many consider her to be the ancestors of modern bears, or followers of huge raccoons, or martens. However, many zoologists believe that this amazing animal does not belong to any of the existing animal species. Outwardly, the giant panda has a body structure similar to bears.
The giant panda has luxuriant black-and-white fur. Adults measure around 1.2 to 1.9 metres (3 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 3 inches) long, including a tail of about 10–15 cm (4–6 in), and 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in) tall at the shoulder. Males can weigh up to 160 kg (350 lb).Females (generally 10–20% smaller than males) can weigh as little as 70 kg (150 lb), but can also weigh up to 125 kg (276 lb). The average weight for adults is 100 to 115 kg (220 to 254 lb).
The color of the panda is unique. The giant panda has black ears, legs and shoulders, black spots near the eyes, while the rest of the fur is completely white. Therefore, the panda is also called the spotted bear.
The panda looks huge, has a massive body, thick fur, short wide legs with strong claws and a rather long tail. The feet are well adapted for climbing trees.
The panda’s head is massive and with large ears. Also, pandas have very powerful jaws with large teeth, which allows them to chew even the toughest plant stems without difficulty. With all these combinations, the panda animal looks very cute and resembles a large teddy bear.
The panda has unusual front legs with six toes. This structure of the paws allows you to handle young and thin shoots of plants. The soles have pads to help hold the smooth stems of the trees.
Basically, these animals move on all four limbs, but can also assume an upright position, reaching the upper leaves and stems. The gait of pandas is slow and clumsy, they do not know how to move quickly, as they do not have strength and endurance. Black and polar bears have good eyesight, but they are more oriented towards hearing and a superbly developed sense of smell. They are excellent tree climbers and can swim, although they do not really like water.
Where do giant pandas live?
The giant panda lives in the mountainous regions of central China, the forests of Tibet and the Sichuan province. This is the only place on the planet where pandas live in their natural environment.
There are no more than 2 thousand bamboo bears around the world, and more than half of them are kept in parks and national reserves. The few individuals left in the wild live where bamboo grows, they inhabit mixed, deciduous and coniferous forests, and prefer to hide from human eyes in the mountain hills.
What does the giant panda eat?
Pandas feed on bamboo stems and leaves. This is their main and favorite food. Therefore, the giant panda is called the bamboo bear. Bamboo makes up 99% of a bear’s diet. A single adult panda needs a huge amount of bamboo leaves and shoots to be satiated – about 25% of the animal’s weight.
Once full, the pandas fall asleep and wake up hungry again. Because food is low in nutritional value and monotonous, it is difficult to digest. Therefore, most of the awake pandas are forced to chew, and this is up to 14 hours a day.
Pandas conserve their energy reserves. In this regard, they travel little and only when the nearby food resources are depleted.
When kept in artificial conditions, the panda is treated with sweets, lump sugar. In addition to cane food, captive pandas feed on apples, carrots, porridge and other foods. Employees of national parks and zoos, in which the panda lives in captivity, note that the animal is completely unpretentious in food and eats almost everything that is offered to him.
Panda lifestyle and behavior
Pandas prefer to lead a secretive, secluded lifestyle. The activity of pandas does not depend on the time of day; they go in search of food when they get hungry. But, since pandas nominally belong to the class of predators, in most cases they go out to feed at dusk, and during the day they rest in bamboo thickets, or on a wide tree trunk.
Bamboo bears are not at all conflicting animals, they do not show aggression and anger towards each other. And at the same time, pandas do not strive for friendly relations and joint pastime with their relatives. True, in zoos and reserves, a group of pandas peacefully coexist in spacious open-air cages, they eat and play together.
But in the wild, each bear has its own piece of land with bamboo plantations and shelters in the form of natural caves or rocky depressions. Interestingly, pandas do not mark the boundaries of their own possessions with urine and feces, but simply leave deep scratches on the trees. Aliens are not welcomed on their territory, but they will not fight an intruder either. Although females are more aggressive than males and violently drive off neighbors who wander into their areas, it is likely that their behavior is associated with fierce competition for food for themselves and their young.
Pandas do not go into hibernation, but with the onset of cold weather they become more passive than usual, and spend more time sleeping than in the warm season. And in winter, animals have to migrate to regions where the weather conditions are not so severe. In December, they leave the snow-covered hills, and move to winter in forests and plains, where the air temperature is a couple of degrees higher.
Breeding pandas and raising offspring
Pandas are known to be very caring and patient parents. They reach sexual maturity late, they are ready to reproduce only at 5-7 years of age. Animals are prone to mating only for the duration of the marriage relationship. This period is seasonal and starts from the first days of spring. Each sexually mature female can produce offspring once every 2 years and give birth to 1-2 cubs. The period when mating can lead to fertilization lasts only three to four days.
A panda’s pregnancy lasts between 90 and 160 days, with an average of about 130 days. Panda cubs are born blind and helpless. In a small and defenseless creature, it is difficult to recognize the future owner of the bamboo forests. But panda cubs are growing fast. Panda cubs’ eyes open at 3 weeks of age. Milk feeding lasts about 46 weeks. The cubs stay with their mothers for one and a half to three years.
Natural enemies of giant pandas
In their natural habitat, pandas can feel completely safe. In the neighborhood with them there are no large predators that can threaten.
The decrease in the number of pandas was facilitated by the low birth rate, as well as the destruction of regions of natural habitat.
At the moment, thanks to the creation of a large number of nature reserves and national parks, the number of bamboo bears is gradually increasing. There are such reserves in Shanghai, Taipei, San Diego, Atlanta, Memphis, South Korea. Also, giant pandas breed in captivity at the National Zoo of the United States of America. Due to the increase in the number of individuals in 2016, the status of an endangered species was changed to a vulnerable species. Fortunately, the panda reproduces well in captivity and lives for about 25 years.