About the Giant Panda
The giant panda is a bear that lives in the mountains. They live at elevations between 5,000 to 10,000 feet. A male panda can grow to 250 pounds in the wild. The males are larger than females. The females grow up to about 200 pounds. The life span of a panda in captivity was once 35 years! The life span of pandas in the wild is unknown.
Pandas were classified as an endangered species in the 1980’s. More than 160 pandas live in zoos. About 1000 giant pandas live in the wild.
The diet of a panda is 99% bamboo. It may also eat eggs, fish, honey, shrub leaves, yams, oranges and bananas when available.
The panda eats upright. The panda needs to eat about 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo each day to get enough nutrients. This means that a panda spends about 10 to 16 hours a day eating or looking for food. The rest of the day it spends sleeping.
Why is it Endangered?
The panda is endangered mainly because of habitat destruction. Habitat destruction is when a habitat is destroyed and replaced with farms, buildings etc. In China, much of the forest area in which the panda lives has been cleared for farmland and wood.
Other threats include:
- starvation from loss of food
- low numbers leading to an increase in inherited diseases
- inbreeding due to low numbers
In the past, pandas only migrated when bamboo forests died. But now since bamboo forests are being cleared for farming and buildings, they can’t find a forest in time and die.
What’s Happening Now
Pandas are recovering. They are still on the list of threatened animals though. Zoos try very hard to raise and study pandas. By learning more about them perhaps we can take better care of them.
In China, the government is trying to protect the panda by creating bamboo-rich forest reserves. The government needs to set aside large areas because bamboo plants die every 15 to 120 years, and it takes years for new plants to grow. These die-offs have caused many pandas to starve.