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Location: Bears

Panda Bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)



Panda Bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Order: Carnivora, Family: Ursidae

The giant panda has thick black fur on its ears, eyes, muzzle, legs and shoulders. The rest of it is white. The panda's striking coloring probably serves to help it blend in to both snowy and rocky environments. Pandas measure 2 to 3 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet long. Males weigh about 250 pounds, and females average 220. The panda has extremely strong jaw muscles and large teeth, which allow it crush bamboo, its main food. The panda has strong front legs, which it uses to climb trees. Its rear legs are weaker.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • The giant panda has thick black fur on its ears, eyes, muzzle, legs and shoulders. The rest of it is white.
  • The panda's striking coloring probably serves to help it blend in to both snowy and rocky environments.
  • Pandas measure 2 to 3 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet long. Males weigh about 250 pounds, and females average 220.
  • The panda has extremely strong jaw muscles and large teeth, which allow it crush bamboo, its main food.
  • The panda has strong front legs, which it uses to climb trees. Its rear legs are weaker.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • The panda's geographic range is limited to the mountains of central and western China, where it inhabits broadleaf and coniferous forests with a layer of bamboo.
  • Pandas can live at elevations as high as 10,000 feet. The mountains provide heavy cloud cover and tropical rains, which help protect the panda as well as promote bamboo growth.
  • Pandas have small home ranges, generally 3 to 5 square miles.
III. DIET:
  • Bamboo makes up 95 to 99 percent of the wild panda's diet. However, pandas will also eat grass and occasionally small rodents.
  • Pandas in captivity eat bamboo, along with a rice mixture, high-fiber biscuits, vegetables and fruits, such as apples.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Giant pandas mature sexually between 4 and 7 years of age. Females ovulate every spring and are able to conceive only two to three days each year.
  • Gestation lasts from three to six months. In general, pandas give birth to one or two cubs every other year.
  • A newborn giant panda weighs approximately 4 ounces, or 900 times less than its mother. Blind and with little fur, panda cubs are completely helpless. Right after birth, cubs give out a piercing wail to draw the attention of their mothers. Mother pandas transport their young by gently holding them in their teeth, similar to the way female cats carry their kittens.
  • Giant pandas are attentive mothers, rarely leaving their cubs for the first three weeks of life. Cubs stay with their mothers for one to two years.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • The panda is considered one of the most endangered species in the world.
  • As few as 1,000 pandas remain in the wild, and about 150 pandas live in zoos, mostly in China.
  • Human encroachment has reduced the panda's habitat to small, isolated pockets, which limits its access to bamboo. Poaching and illegal hunting also threaten the giant panda.
  • The bamboo supply is running out for pandas in the wild, in part due to the slow regrowth process of bamboo. It takes a certain number of years for bamboo to grow, then it flowers and dies. Regeneration of a bamboo forest can take several more years.
  • Experts have long believed that the panda was primarily a solitary animal. However, recent studies suggest that pandas live in overlapping territories and encounter each other at times other than the breeding season.



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