Giant pandas are one of the most beloved animals on the planet. But beyond their adorable appearance lies a fascinating and complex species with a unique set of behaviors and characteristics. Get ready to discover some interesting facts about these cute animals!
1. They are born pink
The giant panda, also known as panda or panda bear) is a real bear, this was already confirmed in a study in 1970. One of the defining characteristics of this species is its distinctive black and white coat, which enables it to blend into its surroundings. It uses the white of their coats to camouflage themselves in the snow and the black to blend into the forest shadows.
The skin of the panda is exceptionally thick, measuring between 5mm to 10mm, which is twice that of an average human. This thick, furry coat serves as insulation, providing warmth in their chilly forest environments.
The most noticeable features of the giant panda are its black eye patches and ears, which contrast with its white face and head. The giant panda also has black legs, shoulders, and a band around its chest. The rest of its body is covered with thick white fur.
However, the panda doesn’t have these black and white colors until it’s about 3 weeks old. At birth, the panda appears mostly pink and covered in a thin layer of hair.
When on 4 legs, this creature has a size between 1-2 m (4-6 feet) in length and 60-100 cm (2-3 feet) in height. The male weighs around 20% more and is 10% larger than its female counterpart. In their natural habitat, the male panda can weigh between 85-125kg, whereas the female is generally from 70-100kg.
In addition to their size differences, the panda also possesses unique visual characteristics that set them apart from other bear species. Its pupils are vertically slit, similar to those of domestic cats.
In the past, giant pandas roamed across eastern and southern China, but their habitat has been significantly reduced. These species are now confined to approximately 14,000 sq km areas of bamboo forest spread across 6 regions in Shaanxi, Gansu, and Sichuan provinces.
Because these big pandas are native species of China, it is considered valuable national asset and is frequently utilized as a symbol of the country during international events.
3. Pandas can be brown and white
The black-and-white appearance is the key characteristic of giant pandas. However, these bears do not always come in these colors.
A distinctive and uncommon subspecies of the giant panda is the Qinling panda. They inhabit only the Qinling Mountains in China at elevations ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 meters. They account for barely 18.5% of the overall population of giant pandas.
The Qinling panda has some distinctive features that set it apart from its more famous cousin, such as a smaller skull, a shorter tail, larger teeth, and different colors. While giant pandas have a black and white coat, the Qinling has a light brown and white color.
Despite sharing a common origin, the two panda groups are slipt by vast mountains and rivers, as well as human interference. According to paleontologists, they diverged approximately 50,000 years ago, leading to separated reproduction and evolution.
4. They live a lonely life
Giant pandas are lonely creatures and tend not to cohabitate with their family. In the wild establish, they maintain their distinct territories and prefer to be alone. Since their main diet is bamboo, these creatures don’t need cooperative hunting. If they lived in groups, competition for adequate bamboo would lead to conflict. This will cause a bad impact on their survival.
Each panda requires between 3 to 8 sq kilometers (1 to 3 sq miles) of bamboo forest to thrive.
Like polar bears, black and white pandas don’t hibernate in the winter. They descend from the mountains in search of a warmer temperature instead. Due to their bamboo-heavy diet, pandas are unable to accumulate enough fat to hibernate.
5. They are good athletes
Despite a heavy body, giant pandas are surprisingly swift runners. They’re capable of reaching speeds of around 32 kilometers per hour. They are also proficient climbers, with some individuals scaling heights of up to 13,000 feet. Not only do these bears do well on land, but they also swim pretty well underwater.
6. They have a carnivorous digestive system
The primary diet of giant pandas is bamboo shoots and leaves. However, bamboo is a rather inadequate food source for the panda as it has low protein and high lignin and cellulose. In addition, they can only absorb roughly 17% of dry matter.
For all of these reasons, to meet their nutritional needs and maintain their health, these bears have to eat about 10-38 kg of food each day. Consequently, pandas spend most of their time eating food and spend the remainder of the day sleeping. In their natural habitat, giant pandas take naps for 2 – 4 hours between meals.
Despite being herbivores, pandas have a shorter gut similar to carnivores. When bamboo is not available, they may consume other plants like wheat, kidney beans, and pumpkin. They can also feed on fish, eggs, and small mammals.
Pandas use their hand with six digits, which is formed up of an expanded and bigger wrist bone, to hold food. This bone works like a human thumb, despite the fact that it is not fully opposable. It aids the bears in gripping food and providing support while swimming and climbing. Interestingly, pandas are the only bears that have thumbs.
While adult pandas do not have many natural predators, their young can be attacked by snow leopards, black bears, wild dogs, and eagles.
7. They poop a lot
As we mentioned before, pandas require a substantial amount of bamboo to maintain their energy levels. And What goes in, must come out.” Due to the high fiber content in their diet, giant pandas produce a considerable amount of feces, averaging around 28 kg per day. They do this every 15-20 minutes. This behavior contrasts with that of the sloth who only poops once a week.
The majority of their excrement consists of undigested bamboo. In the past, these things were used to create picture frames and bookmarks. Sound stinky, right?! However, surprisingly, they didn’t smell at all.
When panda animals are in the wild, their excrement can serve as a useful indicator of their location, leading researchers back to their dens. However, this behavior also puts them at risk of being targeted by poachers.
8. They communicate through scent
Pandas have a keen sense of smell which allows them to easily detect the presence of another panda in the area. They can even distinguish the gender of the other panda, whether odor traces are fresh or old, or whether the female is in heat or not.
To establish their territory, Chinese pandas use various methods to leave their scent on tree bark, such as urinating or rubbing scent glands. They will do the handstand position to climb trees backward to mark scents. This allows them marks at higher places.
Within the panda community, a general rule is that the higher they can mark their smell on a tree, the stronger they are perceived to be. This is also a way to earn mating rights.
9. Females can mate with several partners
Giant pandas reach sexual maturity at the age of 4-8 years old. Their breeding season is between mid-February and May. Unlike other bears, pandas do not roar to attract each other. They instead use scents and calls that are similar to those of goats or sheep.
A female panda can mate with multiple males. The special thing about their mating habit is that the females are in heat only once a year for a brief period of 24 to 72 hours. This limited time frame makes male pandas highly competitive in their pursuit of mating opportunities.
Once mating is completed, male and female pandas live separately. The female is responsible for den building and nursing its offspring.
After experiencing a gestation period of 95 – 160 days, the female gives birth to one cub every 2 years. However, in captivity, they can have twins. If this happens in the wild, the mother will only care for the stronger one and leave the weaker one to be on its own. This is because the mothers don’t have enough milk or energy to care for both.
Once a giant panda mother gives birth, she will not eat for an extended period (maybe a month). Instead, her main priority is to care for and safeguard her cubs.
The newborn panda is quite small, weighing only 85-140 g. It’s hairless, blind, and unable to move much on its own for nearly 3 months. At approximately 12 months of age, the cub begins to eat bamboo.
The young remain with its mother until she becomes pregnant again, which is about 1.5 years. If the female doesn’t get pregnant, it will keep living with her for another year.
The life expectancy of giant pandas is about 18 to 20 years in the wild. In captivity, their lifespan can last 25 to 30 years. The oldest panda was Xinxing who lived in Chongqing Zoo. It lived for 38 years and four months, from 1982 to 2020, which is equivalent to 115 human years. (A panda year is approximately equivalent to three human years.)
10. All pandas in the world belong to China
Throughout history, China has engaged in “Panda diplomacy,” offering its beloved giant pandas as diplomatic gifts.
In the 6th century, when Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty sent pandas to Emperor Tenmu of Japan. In the 1970s, China gifted pandas to zoos in the United States and Japan, marking the cultural exchange between these countries. As pandas grew in popularity, other countries began to request them as well.
However, in 1984, China shifted its approach and began loaning pandas for an annual fee of $1 million. These loans typically last for 10 years. This means that all pandas on eath belong to the Chinese government. And any cub born during this time will cost $400k. It will be returned to China when it is three years old to aid in breeding.
11. They’re no longer endangered species
Giant pandas play an important role in the ecosystem. They eat plants and spread seeds through their droppings, promoting the growth and sustainability of the forest ecosystem.
However, their population has suffered a significant decline due to human activities over time. With the growth of China’s population, the development of infrastructure (such as roads, mining, dams, and other projects) has caused their habitat loss, leaving them nowhere to live. This has caused food shortages as well.
In addition, pandas have been hunted for their fur, further exacerbating the problem. Panda fur holds a value ranging from US$60,000 to US$100,000 on the black market for illegal trading.
To address this critical issue, the Chinese government has taken proactive measures to safeguard and revive this species. These efforts have yielded encouraging outcomes, with the panda population showing a consistent increase since 2003.
pandas were once on the verge of extinction, but they have now become one of the most remarkable conservation success stories globally. Their population in the wild has grown to over 2000 species. Consequently, in 2016, the IUCN changed their conservation status from endangered to vulnerable.
Nevertheless, global warming could ruin all of these efforts. Many models predict that harsh climate conditions will result in a 37% to 100% loss of bamboo habitat by the end of this century.