|Giant panda at Washington, D.C.|
|Giant panda range|
The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, meaning "black and white cat-foot") is a type of bear. It lives in bamboo forests in central China. The giant panda is an endangered animal. In November 2007, China had 239 giant pandas who lived in captivity. There are 27 giant pandas which live in zoos outside of China. The exact number of giant pandas in the wild is not known. Some sources say there are about 1,590, other sources give a number between 2,000 and 3,000. The number of giant pandas in the wild seems to be increasing.
Giant pandas are about 1.2–1.5 m long and about 75 cm high. They weigh between 75 and 160 kg. Giant pandas have white fur on their bodies and black fur on their legs and shoulders. They also have black ears and black patches around their eyes. Pandas can climb and swim good.
Giant pandas are born with pink skin, with black areas on the legs, ears, and eyes. They are usually born with a small amount of white fur. They get more fur when they are about nine months old..
The giant panda is a type of bear. Its closest "bear relative" is the Spectacled Bear of South America. There is another type of creature that shares the giant panda's habitat and has many similar traits. This is the red panda, which scientists thought must be related. But a giant panda is a bear, and a red panda is more closely related to a raccoon or a skunk. The red and giant pandas have many things in common. Both have a similar diet, eating mostly bamboo. They also have the same kind of enlarged bone, called a pseudothumb. This allows them to better grip the bamboo they eat. Red and giant pandas also live in the same habitat. Some people have called the giant panda a living fossil. Most other species closely related to the giant panda do not exist anymore. There is now only one species under the genus of Ailuropoda.
Currently there are two subspecies of giant panda:
- Ailuropoda melanoleuca melanoleuca – Most pandas belong to this subspecies. Most of these animals can be found in Sichuan, China. They have the typical dark black and white contrasting colors.
- Qinling panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis – This subspecies is only found in the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi, China. They live between 1,300 and 3,000 m of altitude. Instead of the typical dark black and white pattern of Sichuan pandas, Qinling pandas have a dark brown versus light brown pattern. Their skull is smaller than their relatives, and it has larger molars.
Giant pandas live by themselves. Females have a territory which they defend against other females. When female pandas are ready to mate, they give off a special scent and make a loud bleating noise to tell the males that they are ready. Giant pandas mate between the months of March and May which is the Summer months in China. If there are several males, they fight each other. The one who wins – the strongest male, then mates with the female. In August or September, the female gives birth to one or two babies. If she has two babies, she will only raise one baby, and the other baby dies, no one really knows how the female panda chooses between the two. Giant panda babies are very small, and weigh only 90–130 grams, which is about 1/900 of its mother's weight. The baby drinks milk until it is 8–9 months old. Young pandas live with their mothers until they are 18–24 months old. They become mature when they are 5–7 years old. They live around 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity (e.g. in zoos). Unlike other bears, pandas do not hibernate.
Giant pandas and humans [change]
Today, the giant panda is seen as a symbol for China. It is also protected by the Chinese government, and killing a panda is a crime. The giant panda is now under the threat of extinction, and it will die out if the forests of bamboo continue to disappear.
People outside of eastern Asia did not know about the giant panda until 1869. The first "Westerner" to see a live panda was a German zoologist in 1916. In 1936, Ruth Harkness became the first Westerner to bring a live giant panda out of China. It was a cub (baby panda) named Su-Lin. The cub was taken to live at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
In the 1970s, China began showing giant pandas in zoos in the United States and Japan as a type of diplomacy. This happened until 1984, when China changed how this was done. Starting in 1984, China would allow zoos to keep the giant pandas for 10 years, but the zoo would have to pay China up to $1,000,000 each year. Also, the zoo would have to agree that any cubs born would belong to China.
Currently, 14 cities outside of China have zoos that have giant pandas.
- North America
- Washington, D.C., United States
- San Diego, California, United States
- Memphis, Tennessee, United States
- Atlanta, Georgia, United States
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Tokyo, Japan
- Kobe, Hyōgo, Japan
- Shirahama, Wakayama, Japan 
- Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan[source?]
- Hong Kong, China
Although their bodies are made to eat meat, giant pandas are mostly herbivorous. Their main source of food is bamboo. Because pandas have the digestive system of carnivores and can not digest cellulose very well, they get little energy and protein from the bamboo they eat. Because they get very little nutrition from bamboo, they must eat a lot. Pandas commonly eat 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo a day to get the nutrition they need. Although there are more than 200 different varieties of bamboo the Panda will only eat 20 varieties. Pandas sometimes run out of food, as a type of bamboo flowers, die, and regrow again at the same time.
Why the giant panda is becoming extinct [change]
As of 2008, the giant bear is an endangered animal. The main problem they have is habitat loss. Habitat loss is when the places they live in are ruined. Humans often ruin the places where pandas live, such as for the construction of buildings. Pandas can also lose their habitat because of pollution. Pollution means that less bamboo grows, or that bamboo stops growing completely in a certain place. Giant pandas also have a low birth rate, which makes the problem worse.
Traditional Chinese stories about the giant pandas say that the animal can be very powerful. Some people believe that sleeping on a panda skin can protect them from ghost and predict their future. These tales are one of the reasons why people would spend lots of money for the skin and fur of this precious animal.
In former times, the pandas were also hunted. The Western people who came to China were soon unable to hunt the pandas, because of different wars. Local people continued though. Pandas were mainly hunted for their fur. Today, hunting pandas is not allowed.
In 1963, China set up a nature reserve for pandas, the Wolong National Nature Reserve. This was the first, other nature reserves followed. China did this to fight the number of pandas going down. In 2006, there were 40 panda reserves, compared to 13, two decades ago.
Related websites [change]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Giant Panda|
|Wikispecies has information on: Ailuropoda melanoleuca.|
- Scheff, Duncan (2002). Giant Pandas. Animals of the rain forest (illustrated ed.). Heinemann-Raintree Library. p. 7. ISBN 0739855298.
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- "Pandas sent off to Spain". http://www.lifeinthefastlane.ca/pandas-send-off-to-spain-from-chengdu-research-base/offbeat-news. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
- Casey, Michael (28 May 2009). "China experts say Thailand's panda cub healthy". Associated Press. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30980596/.
- "Giant panda pair headed for Tokyo zoo". http://www.physorg.com/news199456657.html. Retrieved 2011-05-04.
- "Kobe Oji Zoo". GiantPandaZoo. http://www.giantpandazoo.com/KobeOjiZoo.html. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
- "Panda Zoos List". www.GiantPandaZoo.com. http://www.giantpandazoo.com/panda/panda-zoos. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- "Rudd gives panda pledge". ABC. 11 April 2008. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/11/2214650.htm?section=justin. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
- "Giant Pandas". Atlanta Zoo. http://zooatlanta.org/animals_giant_panda_learn.htm. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
- "Bamboo: Remarkable Giant Grasses". http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph39.htm. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
- "Wolong National Nature Reserve". Wolong National Nature Reserve. http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_aboutchina/2003-09/24/content_21399.htm. Retrieved 3 May 2008.