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Giant panda

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Giant panda
Panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca 1.jpg
Scientific Classification
Scientific Name

Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Pandas Ailuropoda melanoleuca Adult and Young.jpg
Adult female Giant panda and 10-month-old young at the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna.

Introduction

The Giant panda is a bear native to the forests of Southwest China. Often widely recognized for their black and white markings, these fairly solitary creatures[2] can weigh 100-150 kg, are good swimmers[3], and are beloved all around the world as the mascot of many franchises, including Panda Express[4], Kung Fu Panda[5], and Hello Panda[6].

Multiple zoos care for pandas, and when they give birth, the babies are named on their 100th day-- according to tradition.[7]

This furry animal is known to eat mainly bamboo.[8] Due to this preference, combined the ever-shrinking bamboo forests,[9] the Giant panda is classified as an endangered species.[10] There are multiple organizations working toward to preservation of this popular creature.[11][12]

Body Design

A panda's jaw is deep and wide, which proves to be very effective when eating bamboo. A panda's paw has an extra digit, which helps it tear bamboo.

The Giant panda generally has a stocky body, round head, and a shoulder height of about 65-70 centimeters. Males are 20% heavier and 10% larger than the females on average. A full-grown panda usually weighs around 150kg (330.693 lbs).[13] While they are known for their distinctive black and white coloration, there can be a reddish tinge around some of the black areas. Black areas include the eyes, ears, shoulders and limbs. The rest of the body is white.[14]

The round head of the panda contains jaws that are deeper and wider than the average bear, causing them to be extremely powerful and effective when eating bamboo. They have a large sagittal crest (ridge on the top of the skull that attaches to the jaw muscles) and wide, flat molars and premolars. On these teeth the panda has some extensive cusps and ridges, which also aid in the eating habits of the mammal.[14]

The stomach of the panda is incredibly muscular, which aids in digesting bamboo. The gut also has a special feature to protect against any splinters-- there is a quite thick layer of mucus(a slimy substance that is created and secreted by mucous membranes) on the inside.[14]

The panda's paw has an extra digit known as the "panda's thumb"-- however, it is only a pad of skin covering the enlarged wristbone[13]. This pad of skin helps the animal tear down bamboo for consumption. It caused confusion about the classification of the panda, as bears typically don't have these structures.[14]

Life Cycle

Ailuropoda melanoleuca, only about one week old, at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Sexually mature female pandas (5.5-6.5 years old) go into heat during mating season, which is between March and May. The male and female usually associate for no more than 2-4 days. After the gestation (development in the womb) period of 95-160 days, the female panda will normally give birth to single young. Twins do not commonly occur in the wild, but they do occur often in captivity. This is thought to be caused by artificial (man-made, induced, or conceived) insemination (injection of sperm into a female organism for the purpose of impregnation), which is often used for pandas in captivity. The reproductive rate tends to be about one cub every two years.[2]

Newborn panda cubs weigh approximately 90-130g-- only 1/900th the size of the mother. They are dependent on their mother for a few months, and are weaned by 8-9 months. They usually don't leave their mother, however, until she gets pregnant again. This usually occurs at about 18 months.[2]

After leaving their mothers, Giant pandas are typically solitary (aside from mating season) with a defined home range. Territories are marked by the creature clawing tree trunks, spraying urine, and rubbing up against objects. They communicate with other pandas mostly through scent-marking and vocalization, not usually through direct encounters. The panda continues to live this way until next mating season, when the cycle starts all over.[2]

Ecology

A picture of A. melanoleuca, eating bamboo.
Bamboo stalks, the main source of food for the Giant Panda.

Giant pandas live in patches of bamboo forests spread across China's mountain ranges-- particularly the Minshan and Qinling mountains.[9]

Bamboo is the main source of food for the panda, as 99% of what the animal eats is the stems, leaves, and shoots. They eat 12-38kg of bamboo each day because bamboo has very little nutritional value, so the panda needs to eat a larger quantity in order to meet its energy needs.[8]

The remaining 1% of A. melanoleuca's diet is a mixture of other plants or rodents, such as the pika (Ochotona daurica[15]).[8]

Adult pandas tend to be fierce foes, but there are animals that prey on the young, more vulnerable panda cubs. Possible predators include snow leopards (Panthera uncia[16]), jackals (genus Canis[17]), and yellow-throated martens (Martes flavigula[18]).[19]

Endangered Species

Ailuropoda melanoleuca, at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The base was established to help conserve and protect the giant panda.

In 2014, a census was taken to count the remaining Giant pandas. Only 1,864 were found. As low as that number sounds, it's actually a 17% increase from the late 1970s.[10]

The numbers of Giant pandas have gone up because of conservation groups taking action and raising awareness.[10]

The main reason that pandas are endangered is because of the destruction of their habitat, bamboo forests. Human development has been a large contributing factor.[9]

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, for example, was established in 1987 to help to continue the conservation and research that was being done at the Chengdu Zoo.[20]

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was established in 1961. They work to conserve all kinds of different species of animals all over the world.[12] The WWF has proved to be especially effective-- it raised over $5.6 million in its first decade alone, and has been momentous in the conservation and research of many different endangered species.[21] 92% of all money donated to WWF goes straight to the conservation of endangered species like the giant panda. [22]

Video

A fact video about the Giant panda:

  1. Ailuropoda melanoleuca Wikispecies. Web. Modified November 22, 2015. Various Authors, Unknown.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Life cycle World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  3. Giant panda World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed December 29, 2016. Author Unknown.
  4. Panda Express Panda Express. Web. Accessed December 29, 2016 Author Unknown.
  5. Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda. Web. Accessed December 29, 2016. Author Unknown.
  6. Meiji Hello Panda. Web. Accessed December 29, 2016. Author Unknown.
  7. Yu, Mallory. [How the Giant Pandas Get Their Names Washingtonian. Web. Published September 17, 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 What do pandas eat? World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Habitat of the Panda World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 How many are left in the wild? World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  11. About the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  12. 12.0 12.1 50 years of environmental conservation World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  13. 13.0 13.1 How big, tall and heavy are pandas? World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 03, 2017. Author Unknown.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Bies, L. Ailuropoda melanoleuca Animal Diversity Web. Web. Accessed January 18, 2017.
  15. Pika Wikipedia. Web. Last Modified December 20, 2016. Various Unknown Authors.
  16. Snow leopard Wikipedia. Web. Last Modified December 30, 2016. Various Unknown Authors.
  17. Jackal Wikipedia. Web. Last Modified December 26, 2016. Various Unknown Authors.
  18. Yellow-throated marten Wikipedia. Web. Last Modified November 29, 2016. Various Unknown Authors.
  19. Panda's natural enemies World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown
  20. About the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  21. 50 years of Achievements World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.
  22. Your donation matters World Wildlife Fund. Web. Accessed January 04, 2017. Author Unknown.