Mediterranean Monk Seal
The Giant Panda, the symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature, is critically endangered. Only 500-1000 giant pandas survive in the wild, with about 100 in zoos in China and 18 in other countries. Destruction of it habitat and poaching are the main threats to its existence.
CAUSES OF DECLINE
The Chinese once hunted the giant panda, believing that its pelt provided magical protection against evil spirits. Today, however, hunting caries the death penalty. One of the mai causes of the panda's decline now is the fragmentation and destruction of its habitat because of clearing for crop cultivation. Another is the natural die-back of the local variety of bamboo. The panda cannot migrate to new areas, because it is hemmed in by human settlements, and so it frequently starves to death.
PANDA = CANIVORE & NOT A BEAR ?
Although its ancestors are canivores and it being classed as a flesh-eater, the giant panda feeds almost exclusively on the stems, leaves and fresh young shoots of bamboo. The panda supplements its bamboo diet with seasonal vegetation and eggs, and very occasionally eats small animals such as the bamboo rat. It is also an aglie climber to escape from predators such as brown bears, leopards, or wild dogs. 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 mating season is the only time when the normally solitary giant panda comes with another of its species. Five months after mating, a single cub is born in a nest of bamboo. The newborn is about 15 cm in length and weighs only 100g. It is practically hairless anf completely helpless and blind. It stays with its mother for about 18 months, until it is independent enough to establish its own territory. The giant panda uses its stump-like tail like a brsuh to mark territory with 'scent' produced by scent glands located beneath the tail. The panda usually weighs about 100-150 kg and grows up to height of 1.2-1.7 metres standing erect. It lives for about 12-15 years in the wild but can live up to 20 years in captivity.
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. Zoos are also collaborating in developing a programme aimed at 'restocking' suitable areas of natural panda habitat, although so far with only a limited degree of success.