Giant Panda

Ailuopoda melanoleuca

giant panda picture

Pandas are famous for their black and white markings. The legs, shoulders, ears and oval patches around the eyes are black, and the rest of the coat is white. 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. Scientists disagree about whether the giant panda is closely related to bears or raccoons or is separate from both.

Size

Pandas weigh an average of 200 to 300 pounds and reach six feet in length.

Population

Only 1,000 pandas exist in the wild and 60 in zoos.

Lifespan

The panda’s lifespan in the wild is unknown but in captivity averages more than 20 years.

Range

The shrinking range of the panda is limited to parts of Szechuan, Shensi and Kansu provinces in central and western China.

Habitat

The panda lives in thick bamboo and coniferous forests (evergreens with seed cones) at 8,500 to 11,500 feet elevation.

Food

Pandas feed mostly on bamboo, a tall woody plant full of fiber. The panda�s digestive system does not absorb the fiber, so it must eat a lot. Pandas also eat flowers, vines, tufted grasses, green corn, honey and rodents.

Behavior

These solitary animals spend most of their days feeding. Although they live in cold forests, pandas do not hibernate. They move to lower elevations during winter to keep warm and to higher elevations in summer to stay cool. They do not have permanent homes but sleep at the bottom of trees and under stumps and rock ledges.

Offspring

After a gestation period of 125 to 150 days, a mother panda gives birth to one or two young, but only one survives. Eyes open at six to eight weeks, and the cub starts to move around at three months. Weaned at six months, the cub becomes independent after a year.