The Giant Panda is an adorable animal that is also considered one of the rarest mammals in the world. People all over know about pandas and find them overwhelmingly cute. In the United States, if you want to see a live panda, you’ll need to head to the National Zoo in Washington D.C., Zoo Atlanta, the San Diego Zoo, or the Memphis Zoo. At these zoos, you can see the pandas in person or you can check out the Panda Cam at the National Zoo to watch the three pandas.
The Giant Panda is native to China, particularly in the rainy mountain regions toward the center of the country in the Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. Since pandas eat primarily parts of the bamboo tree, they naturally live in expansive bamboo forests. You can find pandas sitting high up in the bamboo trees, munching away or sleeping. Pandas also make their homes hollow logs or stumps of the conifer trees also found in these mountainous areas.
As mentioned above, the Giant Panda eats almost exclusively parts of the bamboo tree, like the shoots and leaves. Sometimes, pandas will also eat other plants, fish, or small animals, but they rarely do so. The majority of the panda’s life is spent eating, up to about 12 hours a day. It’s necessary to spend so much time finding food because bamboo has little nutritional value, which means pandas need to eat around 15 percent of their body weight each day (about 30 pounds of food on average).
The look of Giant Pandas is distinctive; they have a white coat with black markings around their ears, eyes, and extremities. They can grow to be about 300 pounds and anywhere from 5 to 6 feet in length. In captivity, pandas can live up to 30 years.
Pandas are normally solitary creatures, only spending time together during mating season, or as cubs when being raised by their mothers. In the wild, pandas are very shy and stay away from populated areas, which makes seeing a wild panda extremely rare. In addition to being able to climb to nearly 13,000 feet, pandas are also good swimmers. Pandas do not hibernate, instead they simply move to warmer environments during the winter in China.
Unfortunately, even though China considers pandas a national treasure and an important part of culture, there are only estimated to be between 1,000-2,000 in the wild. Giant pandas must struggle to survive, due to the huge amount of food they need to consume each day and habitat fragmentation. As the population of China grows, development occurs in environments that pandas once lived in. As their habitat shrinks, their food supply is depleted. For a while, pandas were listed as endangered, but they’ve recently been moved back to vulnerable status, since the population has slowly increased. There’s still a lot of work to do in order to sustain this species. It’s important to raise awareness and find ways to help them!