Did you know that a group of pandas are called an embarrassment? An embarrassment of pandas!
Giant pandas are also known as panda bears. They are big, cute and cuddly. Additionally, they are intelligent and shrewd. Historically, they existed in the bamboo forests of China, Burma and Vietnam. However, due to encroachment and clearing of forests, most pandas died. Today, pandas are native to southern and central China. It has taken a lot of conservation efforts from China to protect the giant panda.
Giant pandas go by the scientific name Ailuropoda melanoleuca. It means ‘black and white cat-foot’. Pandas have bodies covered in white fur. Their limbs, torso and ears are black in colour. They also have distinctive black patches around their eyes. Pandas can grow to a height of 90cm (shoulder) and a length of 1.5 metres.
Here are some facts about giant pandas:
1. Pandas are Chinas national animal
Giant pandas are exclusive to China. They are part of Chinas national heritage. They are a symbol of peace in China. All pandas come from China. Certainly, any other panda in the world has been acquired on loan from China. Owing to this, China has made great and deliberate efforts to protect giant pandas from extinction. Any time a cub is born, FedEx airlifts it to China for observation. This is done to increase the gene pool.
2. Previously endangered, now vulnerable
Pandas are no longer categorised as an endangered species. China put up very strict measures to protect the panda. Continuous surveillance goes on to prevent poaching. Bamboo forests are also preserved and expanded to protect the natural habitat of pandas. Furthermore, extensive research and development have been put in place to protect the species. By 2016, China had about 2000 pandas in the wild. There are also many pandas in captivity. Due to the increased population of the pandas, the species is now classified as vulnerable. Vulnerable means it still needs protection because it is open to danger.
Pandas live up to 20 years in the wild. Those in captivity can live up to 30 years. The world’s oldest panda died at the age of 38 years. Her name was Jia Jia. She made it to the Guinness Book of world records in 2015 during her 37th birthday.
Pandas live in temperate montane forests. You will certainly find them in the high altitude bamboo forests. Pandas mainly feed on bamboo and this makes bamboo forests their perfect habitat.
99% of panda diet is bamboo. Pandas feed on leaves, stalks, branches and stalks of bamboo trees. Their digestive system is naturally carnivorous and most of the bamboo they eat is not digested. This causes pandas to eat a lot. One adult panda could eat 12-16kgs of bamboo in a day! Additionally, due to the fibre rich diet, pandas poop up to 40 times a day!
6. Eat, Rest. Eat, Rest.
Typically, that is the schedule of the daily life of a panda. Pandas spend about 12 to 16 hours eating. The rest of the time is spent resting or sleeping. Pandas break from eating to sleep. Their diet does not help in building up fat reserves. Consequently, pandas tend to be less active due to low energy levels.
Pandas live a solitary life. Each panda has its territory marked by scratching trees. Besides that, scratching trees is also a sign of communication. Pandas only come together during the mating season. Every other time is time alone.
8. Expensive to keep
A panda is the most expensive animal to keep. It takes up five times the budget of an elephant’s upkeep. As such, very strict regulations have been put in place for those who want to keep pandas. Their main expense is food because pandas spend 55% of their time eating.
Most noteworthy, female pandas are only fertile for a maximum of 3 days in a year. Their gestation period is 5 months. Most give birth to single cubs or twin cubs. At birth, mother panda is 900 times the size of her cub. Pandas give birth to the smallest offspring in relation to the size of the mother. A 100kg mother panda could give birth to a 150-gram cub. Cubs are born blind. They are pink in colour without fur. At four months, the Cubs‘ eyes open and fur starts to grow on their bodies. They are able to wean and play. Pandas take care of their cubs for up to 18 months.
10. Great climbers
Pandas are surprisingly agile. In contrast to their heavyweight and flat feet, they climb trees with so much ease! Their paws have retracting claws which enable them to hold on to trees. Even more, their front limbs have elongated wrist bones. These bones serve like a thumb and help the pandas to grip while climbing trees.
11. Special bears
Pandas are a special type of bear. Polar bears, black bears, koala bears and brown bears all hibernate during winter. In contrast, giant pandas do not hibernate but instead move to lower altitudes. They do this because their diet does not create fat reserves for use during hibernation.
12. Panda fur is expensive
The main reason for poaching of pandas is their fur. In the black market, panda fur goes for 60,000$ to 100, 000$.
Pandas are a must see for those who teach English in China. You can see and interact with Pandas from different areas in Chengdu. Chengdu Panda Base is best if you do not have a lot of time to spare viewing the pandas. Bifengxia Giant Panda Base is a natural forest covered with waterfalls. This area gives you a chance to see pandas in their natural habitat, all relaxed as they chew on the bamboos. Dujiangyan Panda Center also provides a view of Pandas in their natural habitat. This zone allows visitors to volunteer as day Panda Keepers.