Awe-ducational: The Giant Panda

The giant panda is one of the most recognizable animals in the world. Its round fluffy body and black and white markings make it one of the most beloved creatures on earth. All wild pandas live on just six isolated mountain ranges in central China. Pandas prefer low temperatures and high humidity, so during the winter they live in cool, rainy habitats between 5,000 and 7,000 feet and move to snowy home ranges, some as high as 11,500 feet, during the summer.

Pandas are omnivores (meaning they eat both meat and plants) however, pandas rarely choose to eat meat. Ninety nine percent of their diet consist of certain varieties of bamboo. Bamboo is made up of mostly fiber and has very little nutrition. This means that a panda must eat large amounts of bamboo to remain healthy. A panda may find a spot surrounded by bamboo to sit and munch for up to 16 hours a day, taking naps between meals. In a typical day a panda will eat between 26 and 33 pounds of bamboo.

Due to their coloring, scientist once believed that pandas belonged to the raccoon family; however, it is now know that pandas belong to the bear family. Pandas are one of the smallest members of the bear family. They average no more than 6 feet in length and 240 pounds. In comparison, a brown bear can grow up to 9 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

A newborn panda is called a cub. At birth a cub weighs just 4 ounces and is nearly 1,000 times smaller than its mother. At 10 weeks its fluffy black and white fur begins to develop. Four weeks later the cub’s teeth begin to grow in. When the cub is seven months old its mother leads it out of the den to explore the forest, and introduces the cub to water and bamboo.

There are about 1,900 giant pandas living in the wild today, a 17% rise in population over the last decade. Because of that rise the giant panda has been moved from an endangered species to a vulnerable species. That success story of the giant panda is thanks, in large part, to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that are working hard to save many at risk creatures like the giant panda.

If you want to learn more about the giant panda you can visit the juvenile non-fiction section at the Auburn Hills Public Library. Here are some books that you can check out on the topic.

Pandas by Melissa Gish Giant PAnda by Anna Claybourne 50 Reasons to Care About Giant Pandas by Mary Firestone