The giant panda does not hibernate but it will shelter in caves or hollow trees in very cold weather.
Facts about pandas
- The giant panda’s black and white coat and prominent black eye patches have made it one of the best known species, although it is among the shyest and rarest animals in the world.
- At first glance, the giant panda would seem to resemble a bear, but in fact its features show it has a stronger affinity with racoons.
- The giant panda is a solitary animal, which spends about two-thirds of its day feeding and the remainder resting.
- Although classed as a flesh-eater, the giant panda feeds almost exclusively on the stems, leaves and fresh young shoots of bamboo.
- There are about 20 different species of bamboo that pandas will eat. However bamboo is so nutritionally poor that the pandas have to consume up to 20kg each day, which can take up to 16 hours.
- The extra digit on the panda's hand helps them to tear the bamboo and their gut is covered with a thick layer of mucus to protect against splinters.
- The giant panda has the largest molar teeth of any carnivore. Their lower jaw has an extra molar; their molar and pre-molar teeth are adapted to slice and crush tough plants stems. Their strong jaws are capable of crushing bamboo stems up to 4cm in diameter.
- Pandas may climb as high as 4,000 meters to feed on higher slopes in the summer season.
- They may appear sedentary, but they are skilled tree-climbers and efficient swimmers. Pandas can takes refuge in the nearest tree when in danger from predators such as brown bears, leopards, or wild dogs. Its paws are broad with long retractile claws and furry undersides which help it grip when climbing.
- It appears to use no special resting place, but simply lies down on the ground wherever it happens to be.
- The giant panda does not hibernate but it will shelter in caves or hollow trees in very cold weather.
- The panda uses its stump-like tail like a brush to mark territory with ‘scent’ produced by scent glands located beneath the tail.
- Pandas have a highly developed sense of smell that males use to avoid each other and to find females for mating in the spring.
- Five months after mating, a single cub is born in a nest of bamboo. It is rare for a female panda to give birth to twins; if she does so, the second cub is unlikely to survive.
- The blind infants weigh only about 140g at birth and cannot crawl until they reach three months of age. They are born white, and develop their much loved colouring later.
- It stays with its mother for about 18 months, until it is independent enough to establish its own territory.
- The Chinese once hunted it, believing that its pelt provided magical protection against evil spirits. Today, however, hunting carries strict penalties in China.
- There are only about 1,000 giant pandas left in the wild. They are classified as Endangered.
- The main cause of the panda’s decline now is the erosion of its habitat due to the clearing of areas for crop cultivation. Another reason is the natural die-back of the local variety of bamboo. The panda will not migrate to feed in new areas, because it is hemmed in by human settlements, and so it frequently starves to death.
- In China, measures are now under way to save the giant panda. To help increase its numbers, special sanctuaries have been established with sufficient space for 500-600 pandas. Both Chinese and American scientists are studying the animal’s habits and instituting conservation programmes.
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