The panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, lit. "black and white cat-foot"), also known as the giant panda to distinguish it from the unrelated red panda, is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body.
Looked upon as the ambassador for all endangered species, the giant panda is a well-recognized symbol of international wildlife conservation.
At birth, panda cubs typically weigh 4-8oz (100–200g) and measure around 6 inces (15cm) long.
Mating Season: March-May.
Gestation: 3-5 months.
Litter size: 1-2 cubs.
Cubs are born blind and helpless and if there are twins, only one cub survives. The cub's eyes open at six to eight weeks and it starts to move around at three months. Weaned at six months, the cub becomes independent after a year. They may, however, stay with their mothers for up to three years before they strike out on their own.
Wild pandas live only in remote, mountainous regions in central China. These high bamboo forests are cool and wet—just as pandas like it. They may climb as high as 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) to feed on higher slopes in the summer season.
There are only about 1,000 giant pandas left in the wild. Perhaps 100 pandas live in zoos, where they are always among the most popular attractions. Much of what we know about pandas comes from study of these zoo animals, because their wild cousins are so rare and elusive.
The giant panda has an insatiable appetite for bamboo. A typical animal eats half the day—a full 12 out of every 24 hours—and relieves itself dozens of times a day. It takes 28 pounds (12.5 kilograms) of bamboo to satisfy a giant panda's daily dietary needs, and it hungrily plucks the stalks with elongated wrist bones that function rather like thumbs. Pandas will sometimes eat birds or rodents as well.
An adult panda can weigh about 100-150kg and grow up to 150cm
Pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore, but they have adapted to a vegetarian diet of bamboos.
The panda cub is 1/900th the size of its mother, one of the smallest newborn mammals relative to its mother's size.
Poaching of pandas was a serious problem in the past, but it has greatly diminished, and is no longer considered a major threat. Markets for panda skins have virtually disappeared, and penalties for poaching pandas have become far more severe (including death sentences in some cases). Panda parts are not used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, giant pandas are still sometimes killed in snares set for musk deer and other species.
Giant pandas are considered a threatened and precious species in China. They are listed under Category 1 (maximum level of protection) of the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Law of 1988 and on Appendix I of CITES. In 1989 the Chinese Ministry of Forestry (now SFA) and WWF drafted a joint national conservation plan for the giant panda, which was eventually adopted by the Chinese government in 1992. This plan now guides conservation initiatives for this species.