Brief Overview: The giant Panda, or Panda bear, is one of the most recognizable animals in the world. It also has a name that holds more than one meaning. In Nepalese, the word panda is “nigalya ponya” meaning “eater of bamboo”. In Chinese, the giant panda is referred to as the “large bear cat”. The name in English origin means “Hope”. Pandas are a symbol of China and are one of the three national animals of the country. They rely primarily on spatial memory rather than visual memory. At one point they were thought to be related to the Red Panda at first glance, but it was later debunked that the two were not even the same animal.
Species and Appearance: The panda is part of the melanoleuca species and there is only one subspecies of panda known as “Qinling Panda” which can only be found only in China. Giant pandas have a unique, and distinctive, appearance that separates them from all other bears. Their thick black and white fur equips them for life in cool forests and can make them difficult to spot. Their coat markings are unique, with black patches around the eyes, ears, black legs, and around the shoulders with white around the belly, back, and sides of the face. And they also have a short fluffy white tail.
Habitats and Locations: The panda beat can only be found in China. Their natural habitats are mainly located in the regions of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu. These regions are the remote mountainous terrains of central China. Among the mountains, the panda bears live in the cool, wet bamboo forests, a place they mostly prefer above all else. They do not make dens or defend their territories like other animals do. Instead, they will do whichever is most convenient for them. They will sleep in either any hollow tree or find a cave.
Survival and Behavior: Pandas are known to be shy creatures. They, like some of the other bears, are excellent climbers and able swimmers.With their low metabolism, the pandas survive on bamboo. The panda’s ancestors were carnivores once but through evolution their digestive system evolved for the animal to eat bamboo for about 99 percent of their diet. Bamboo is tough to digest, and the pandas must devour lots of it to survive which makes their stomach stronger than an average bear.The Giant Panda is equipped with large molar teeth, and strong jaw muscles, to help them crush tough bamboo as well as to defend themselves if need be. Their coat is very thick which helps them to keep their body temperature regulated and acts as a shock absorbent should the panda fall.Because of their low-energy diet, pandas avoid stressful situations and heavy exercise, preferring shallow slopes and solitary living. They use scent markers to avoid one another. Giant pandas do not also roar like other bears, but bleat like goats, or honk, growl and bark to communicate.
Diet and Predators: Like other bears they are omnivores, however their diet mainly consists of eating bamboo. In the wild they will eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents, or carrion. In captivity, pandas will receive other types of food like honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas, along with specially prepared food that they would mainly eat.As a fully grown panda, there are not that many formidable predators that can take a panda down, but there are some animals that would, and could, prey on their cubs. These predators include jackals, snow leopards, and yellow-throated martens.
Breeding and Lifespan: Giant pandas reach adult maturity between 4 -8 years of age. The mating season is in spring between March and May. Males and females usually associate for no more than 2-4 days. During the season, male pandas will seek out different female pandas who are in heat and they will compete for their attention as a female can mate with several males. After mating, the female pandas are pregnant for about 95 – 160 days. They can only conceive for about two or three days around ovulation, which means she has to mate with a male during that period. Females can be fertile between the ages of about 4 to 20. Like all baby bears, a baby panda is called a cub. The males are known to grow 10 percent bigger than the females and the main lifespan in the wild is between 14 – 20 years, but in captivity they can live up to 30 years.