August 22, 2012

Wildlife Wednesday: Giant Panda

Today's blog was so fun to write as Panda's are my favorite animal.  I have spent many hours at the San Diego Zoo visiting  Hua Mei, Mei Sheng, Su Lin, Zhen Zhen, and Yun Zi.  I can't wait to get the chance to go back, but until then at least I have the panda cam.

The panda bear has been loved by children and toy makers worldwide, and sought after by photographers, zoologists and hunters everywhere. Since its official discovery in the remote, mountainous regions of western China over a century ago, the Giant Panda has intrigued and baffled naturalists like no other animal.
  • Name: Panda Bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Subclass: Theria
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Ursidae
  • Age at Maturity: 5 to 6 years
  • Length of life: 30 years in captivity. Unknown in the wild.
  • Size: 160 to 190 cm
  • Weight: 75 to 130 kg males
  • Habitat: Mountain forest
  • Diet: Bamboo, wild plants
  • Gestation: 4 to 6 months in the wild. Average 5 months.
    In the captivity 3 to 5 months.
  • Cubs: 1 to 2 cubs, rarely 3
  • SubFamily: Ursinae
  • Genus: Ailuropoda
  • Predators: Very rarely leopards and human although panda bears are protected by the Chinese government.
  • Distribution: China
The giant panda (scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca), sometimes referred to as the black-and-white cat-foot, is a mammal belonging to the bear family, or Ursidae. The Ailuropodinae is the oldest family of the most primitive lineage of bears and the fossils of the oldest ancestral panda, Ailuropoda lufengensesis, which are found in southern China, are about 8 million years old.

The Giant Panda is believed to be not only a genuine member of the bear family, but also the only living representative of the family Ailuropoda that is known to exist. Comparative blood-protein tests and recent molecular-genetic analysis have indicated that, while the giant panda branched off independently on the evolutionary tree, it is indeed closer to the bear family than to the raccoon.

Although the panda bear lives wild in a very restricted geographical area of China, it is the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and also an internationally protected species.
The existence of this puzzling animal was first revealed in 1869 when a French missionary naturalist, Pere Jean Pierre Armand David, astonished fellow scientists by sending back to Paris a description, pelt and skeleton of a new species he named Ursus melanoleucus or "black white bear".

He concluded that they more closely resembled those of a much smaller animal known to occupy the same territory: the red panda which looked like a cross between a raccoon and a fox, but revealed its primary ancestry with a raccoon-like body and facial stripes and long ringed tail.

The stronghold of the Giant Panda is the formidable vastness of the Easter Himalayas close to the Chinese-Tibetan border, a vast wilderness of jagged peaks thrusting 20,000 feet in the air above cavernous valleys and torrential mountain streams.

Panda Bears Facts


Like bears, giant pandas are basically heavy ponderous land creatures. The giant panda reaches a length from 120 to 190 centimeters and the adult weight varies from 75 to 130 kilograms. Like many bears, panda bears can climb trees to escape danger or for a quick nap, and are particularly adept at climbing when young.

Although it had long been believed that bamboo shoot comprised the entire panda diet, this was proved to be false by animal bones found in the digestive system of dead animals. In fact, the giant panda will consume small animals and birds, and also carrion that it might come across. It is not the cuddly creature that most believe it to be.

Panda Bears live alone except when breeding and the female generally produces one offspring in winter although twins are not uncommon. The panda's odd markings are still something of a mystery. According to one theory, under certain conditions of contrasting light and shadow on winter snow, the black and white markings act as camouflage, though "beishung" has few enemies to fear in its mountain retreat. Although it was once thought that the giant panda population did not exceed 150 to 200 individuals, more recent estimates have put the figure at several thousand animals.

Pandas symbolize the diversity and tenacity of life and they does not realize that are on the brink of extinction. Just as humans are the cause of its decline, only humans can now prevent it from ceasing to exist altogether.

Since there are so few captive pandas, the Chinese government has officially banned hunting them and only rarely permits their export. The panda bear remains one of the world's most mysterious creatures, almost as baffling a subject of investigation in captivity as when free.
The panda bears are relatively safe from the guns of the hunters due to the remote and almost inaccessible Himalayan habitat in which they live, and the protection provided by the Chinese government is also an effective safeguard.

There have been no scientifically significant studies made on giant pandas in the wild, current knowledge of their behavior having been attained as a result of observations made on animals captive in zoos
Panda baby

The mating time of the Giant Panda falls between March and May and as with many animal species that have specific mating periods, the panda males can fight for the females.

Most births occur in August or September, with mothers having one or two babies, and sometime three.
They weigh only approximately 90 to 130 gram and are covered with pouring rem white skin. With approximately one month young animals have the typical skin design, with 40 to 60 days open them the eyes and with five to six months take them for the first time solid food to itself. With eight to nine months the young animals are cured finally and leave the mother with approximately 18 months.

The baby pandas are very small, with a weight of around 90 to 130 grams (3.5 5 ounces). Within around a month their white skin has taken on the normal appearance, and their open within around 1.5 to 2 months. They are able to leave their mothers within around 1.5 to 2 years.
Within 5 - 7 years they baby pandas have reached puberty and life expectancy for a wild giant panda is around 25 years.

It is frequently difficult to persuade captive pandas to mate since they appear to require a degree of social interaction prior to mating - just like humans!

Probably the best known example of this was the situation of Chi-Chi and An-An in London. Chi-Chi was a female giant panda held in London Zoo, and An-An was a female in Moscow Zoo. Two attempts to mate them ended in failure, even though the Peking Zoo had had two successful mating attempts resulting in two baby pandas.

The main problem appeared to be too little social interaction between the two pandas.
Perhaps a few more candle-lit dinners of bamboo

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