GIANT PANDA – Ailuropoda melanoleuca


Giant panda facts: Giant pandas are white, with black fur around the eyes and on the ears, shoulders, chest, and legs. Each front paw has six toes, the last toe functioning as a thumb. Actually an extension of the wrist bone, the oversized thumb helps the panda grasp bamboo stems. Powerful jaws and large molar teeth help grind the tough bamboo.

Giant pandas have bigger heads and shorter legs than other bears. Adults are about 5.5 to 6 feet (1.7 to 1.8 meters) in body length. Males weigh about 175 to 280 pounds (80 to 125 kilograms), and females weigh about 155 to 220 pounds (70 to 100 kilograms).

Geographic range: Pandas are found in southwestern China.

Giant panda habitat: Giant pandas live in mountainous bamboo forests.

What does giant panda eat: The giant pandas’ diet consists almost entirely of bamboo. Occasionally they eat bulbs and small animals, such as bamboo rats and musk deer fawns.

Behavior and reproduction: Although giant pandas mostly live alone, they communicate through different sounds, including squeals, honks, and snorts. They share community scent-marking areas, sending messages through anal-genital secretions rubbed on surfaces. They also use urine to mark tree trunks, with the males doing so on handstands for higher markings. Giant pandas mate during spring. Sows give birth to twins half of the time, but usually only one cub survives when two are born. Giant pandas and people: Giant pandas are major attractions in zoos around the world. In addition, their endangered status has made them symbols for conservation.

Conservation status: The giant panda is Endangered, driven from its habitat by human activities, such as deforestation, or the clearing of land, for farming. The panda cannot reproduce fast enough to recover its losses. Females mate only in the spring and within just a two-to-three-day period. Only one cub survives, and the mother waits up to three years to mate again.