The panda bear (also known as the great panda) is a mammal that lives in bamboo forests in China’s central mountains. Because of its evident black and white coat, big body, and rounded face, it has become beloved by people worldwide. As stated by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, there are believed to be hardly than one thousand nine hundred pandas left in the wild. Keep reading this article by Hedgethebook to learn more about these cute animals and if they do eat meat or not!
The panda bear has round eyes, black patches around its eyes, and black ears. Its coat is mainly white, but it has distinctive black markings on its face, paws, and chest. Pandas weigh about 125 to 220 pounds (57 to 100 kilograms), with males slightly larger than females. They are about three to four feet (about 1 meter) in length from their head to the end of their tail.
They have 5 digits on each paw which help them grip bamboo when they pull it down from trees or grasp branches when resting in trees. Their tails are short, only about two inches long, and hidden by their thick fur, which helps keep them warm in the cold, mountainous regions where they live.
On 11 March 1869, the French missionary Armand David received skin from a hunter, and the West first encountered the giant panda. In 1916, German zoologist Hugo Weigold bought a cub from a hunter and was the first Westerner to observe a living giant panda in person. In the 1920s, Kermit Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., became the first Westerners to shoot a panda on an exploration sponsored by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. In 1936, Ruth Harkness became the first Western citizen to capture a live panda when she brought home Su Lin from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
Floyd Tangier Smith transported and acquired five giant pandas to London in 1938, arriving on 23 December aboard the SS Antenor. These five individuals were the first to be brought to British soil, and they were transferred to London Zoo. Grandma was one of them, and she died within a few days after being taxidermized by E Gerrard & Sons. She is now on display at Leeds City Museum, where she became the first Giant Panda. Her cranium is held by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Pandas were once found all over China and Japan, but livestock grazing and farming destroyed much of their habitat. Today pandas live mainly in southwest China in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi. Pandas eat bamboo shoots, leaves, flowers, and branches from about 40 kinds of plants. They go through as many as 14 hours a day eating to get about 8 pounds (3 kilograms) of food daily. Despite this constant need for nourishment, they do not spend more than an hour each day looking for food. Before the 1960s, researchers had never studied pandas, so little was known about them until recently, when scientists began closely studying panda behavior. They are perceived as one of the rarest mammals in the world.
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Wild pandas almost exclusively eat bamboo. They eat it either raw, cooked, or fermented. Bamboo is extremely tough and indigestible, so the bears spend 14 hours a day chewing on it. Their jaws can move independently; they can move their lower jaw forward and backward with great force (and using 40 teeth) to crunch the tough plants. Their digestive tracts cannot digest cellulose: A panda that eats only bamboo has to consume more than 12,000 pounds (5,500 kilograms) of bamboo in a year to survive. The panda’s stomach contains bacteria that help them break down the cellulose in their diet.
Do Pandas Eat Meat?
Pandas are technically omnivores, but bamboo forms the bulk of their diet. They eat meat occasionally when they can get it (usually in small rodents called “mice”). Pandas have also been known to eat other food items in captivity, including honey, eggs, and fish, but rare. A panda can spend 10 to 16 hours a day looking for food. There are records of pandas eating meat, but not many. They occasionally eat meat to get the nutrition they need or when their preferred food source is scarce. They have been known to track & kill various animals such as roe deer, pheasants, and fish.
Although pandas cannot digest meat efficiently, it can be difficult to catch prey in the wild due to their low prey drive. Generally speaking, if a panda does not have good bamboo in its diet, it will leave the mountains where it lives and search for food elsewhere, even if that means venturing into human settlements.
Pandas in Danger
Deforestation, poaching, climate change, and low birth rates have severely cut panda numbers. Fortunately, some efforts are being made to try and conserve pandas by making more of their habitat safe along with breeding centers for them which have increased population but not enough, according to some researchers. According to the IUCN Red List, about 1,590 are left in the wild, while only about 300 are being held captive in zoos worldwide. Since they are so rare, it is hard to determine just how many pandas exist today. A census that was done in 2011 estimated that there may be as few as 2,000 giant pandas alive today, while some believe there could be up to 5,000.
Pandas are solitary animals. They live in the mountains, usually near water, and they communicate with other pandas by making low rumbling noises called “chirping.” Pandas were thought to eat bamboo, but recent studies show that pandas will sometimes feed on fish or small rodents. Panda cubs usually stay with their mother for up to 2 years before they learn to survive alone.
Giant Panda Conservation
Scientists all over China are working together to help the panda population grow, which includes studying them closely, research on breeding techniques, habitat preservation, and trying to reduce poaching, among others. The main issue is that about 60% of their diet is made up of just one kind of bamboo because it so much nutrition for them which is why they are in much need of their habitat increasing to make more room for the bamboo.
Pandas do not hibernate because they eat so much, but even when they are awake all year round, pandas usually only give birth every two years, which has made it hard for researchers to increase population numbers. A few zoos like the one at San Diego and some Chinese reserves have had success with breeding them, but many of those pandas were smuggled into China from other countries illegally hence the low number of successful breedings.