Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Ursidae
Size:    Height: 2 to 3 feet (61 to 91 cm)
Weight: 154 to 352 pounds (70 to 160 kg)
Diet: Bamboo shoots, stems and leaves, occasionally other types of vegetation, fruit, eggs or fish
Distribution: Southwestern China
Young:  1 cub every 2 or more years
Animal Predators:  Leopards sometimes prey on young pandas
IUCN Status: Endangered 
Terms: Young: Cub
Lifespan: Average of 26 years and a record 34 in captivity; 14 to 20 years in the wild 



·         Because giant pandas live only in an extremely tiny area of China, their status may be the most precarious of all bear species.

·         In the mid-1980s, the last time a count was taken, there were as few as 1,000 giant pandas in the wild.

·         The symbol of the World Wildlife Fund is the giant panda.

·         The scientific name “Ailuropoda melanoleuca” means “black and white cat-footed bear.”

·         Pandas do not hibernate.



Giant pandas have distinctive black-and-white markings. Their fur is mostly white, with black legs, black ears and black fur around their eyes. The black fur on their forelegs extends up and around their shoulders. Their nose is black and they have larger molar teeth than any other carnivore. They always walk on all fours, unlike some other bears that can walk short distances on two legs. 



Giant pandas once ranged in abundance in Myanmar, north Vietnam and China. Today, they are only found in the bamboo forests of southwestern China, at elevations between 3,600 and 13,123 feet (1100 to 4000 m). They once lived in lowland areas, but farming and clearing of the forest for development forced the pandas into the mountains. 


Feeding Habits

Pandas are generally peaceful animals whose diet is almost entirely made up of plants, specifically bamboo. Although they have the digestive system and teeth of a carnivore and may eat fish once in awhile, they mostly eat a vegetarian diet. 



Mating season is a brief period, occurring from March to May, when several males compete for one female. An extremely small (about the size of a chipmunk) panda cub is born three to six months later. The newborns are delicate, and infant mortality is high—another factor which has led to a decline in the panda population. Their eyes do not open until they are between 45 and 50 days old, and they do not begin to crawl until they are between 75 and 120 days of age. Females are very affectionate with their cubs and have even been seen waking their cubs up to play with them. Mothers teach the necessary survival skills before the cub leaves at about two years of age. The young bears do not reach full maturity until they reach four to six years of age.



Giant pandas spend 10 to 16 hours per day eating or searching for food, and the rest of the time sleeping. Pandas sit upright while eating, using their forepaws to hold their food. When startled, they move at a slow trot and are able to escape danger by climbing trees. Pandas usually live alone, but sometimes interact with other pandas.



Destruction of pandas natural habitat is the major threat to their survival. Another problem is the flowering cycle of bamboo forests. After flowering, the bamboo plants die and although a year later the plants begin to shoot up from seeds, it may take up to 10 years before the forest can feed and support the pandas again. This forces pandas to move and find another bamboo forest, which was not a problem at one time but now, because of clear-cutting, forests that can support the pandas are few and far between. Poaching giant pandas can result in life sentences for anyone who is convicted of this offence by the Chinese government.



Giant Panda Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US