Cute, cuddly and endangered, Panda bears are iconic not just because of their incredibly sweet looks but also because they are symbolic to animal preservation. While most of us enjoying watching pandas, almost all of us are pretty ill-informed about this incredible animal. Let us learn 40 interesting giant panda facts and find out some lesser known facts about this animal. Are you with us?
Interesting Giant Panda Facts: 1-10
1. Giant pandas are classified as carnivoran but in reality, they are vegetarians. Originally they were omnivores around 7 million years ago but they lost their taste for meat and turned to herbivorous diet some 2 to 2.4 million years ago.
2. To this day, their digestive system still remains that of a carnivore. There are genes specific to carnivores found in their digestive system and because of this, very little nutrition/protein is derived from their vegetarian diet.
3. Giant pandas or simply pandas live on bamboos. 99% of their daily diet is made up of bamboos.
4. Because not much of nutrition is extracted out from the bamboo they eat, they need to keep eating for 10 to 16 hours a day to ensure that all the nutrition required for survival is received by the body.
5. Because they switched to bamboos as their food, their style of eating has also evolved. As of today, they sit upright just like humans sitting on floor. This frees their forearms which they use to grasp bamboo stems and munch on them.
6. Bamboos are known for their toughness. In order to adapt to this diet, their overall skull has become big and thick (through evolutionary process). The thick skull supports their large and powerful jaws which allow them to easily crush the fibrous and tough bamboos.
7. They eat anywhere between 20 and 40 pounds of bamboo every single day. As said earlier, they eat all this volume over 10 to 16 hours a day. For the rest of the time, they simply sleep and take rest.
8. Bamboos are water-rich which takes care of a certain percentage of their daily water requirement but that is just not enough. For the rest of the water requirement, they drink from streams and rivers. They need fresh water for survival.
9. Giant pandas have an overall body shape that is similar to any bear in this world but it is their head that sets them apart. Pandas have way larger and rounder heads than any other known bear species in world.
10. The distinctive black and white coat of the giant panda gives it a strikingly different appearance compared to any other bear in the world. Black fur is present on its eye patches, ears, arms, shoulder, muzzle and legs. Rest of the body is covered in white fur.
Interesting Giant Panda Facts: 11-20
11. Pandas possess second-longest tail in the entire bear family. The longest tail belongs to the sloth bear. The tail of a panda measures anywhere between 4 and 6 inches.
12. On an average, the giant pandas grow 4 to 6 feet long. At the shoulders, they grow to an average of 2 to 3 feet tall.
13. Male pandas are bigger and heavier than female pandas. Males have an average weight of 250 pounds while female reach 220 pounds on an average. The maximum weight males can gain is 350 pounds while the maximum the females can gain is 270 pounds.
14. In captivity, pandas can live up to 30 years on an average while in the wild, they can survive up to 20 years on an average.
15. The paws of giant pandas have 5 fingers and a thumb. The thumb is actually a physical modification that helps them with their current eating habit. It is actually a sesamoid bone (which is nothing but an enlarged and elongated wrist bone) with a fleshy skin padding. The purpose of this pseudo thumb is to aid the pandas in holding bamboos while eating.
16. The fur of the pandas is thick and wooly which allows them to stay warm in their natural cold habitat.
17. As far as the natural habitat of the giant pandas is concerned, they once used to thrive in lowland areas of China but because of intense human development, deforestation and farming, they were forced to move up to the mountains.
18. Currently, the natural habitat of the pandas is at an elevation of 5k to 10k feet in mountains areas with coniferous forests that have dense bamboo understory. These natural habitats are characterized by dense mist and torrential rains year round. The forests also remain covered in heavy clouds.
19. Pandas are native to China’s south-central region, especially in Sichuan province. Some can also be found in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.
20. If zoos are taken into account, they are present in 18 zoos spread across 13 different countries.
Interesting Giant Panda Facts: 21-30
21. In the wild, giant pandas occasionally wild tubers, different types of grasses and sometimes meat in form of carrion, rodents or birds.
22. In captivity, i.e. in zoos, the zookeepers may sometimes feed the pandas with bananas, oranges, shrub leaves, yams, fish, eggs and honey. Irrespective of their occasional dietary diversions (either in zoo or in wild), 99% of their diet is always composed of bamboos.
23. As far as their socialization habits are concerned, these cute animals are very solitary by nature. Adults do meet other adults by communicating through calls and scent marks but that’s not very frequent.
24. Baby pandas stick to their mothers for a period of 1.5 to 3 years after which they just survive on their own.
25. As far as reproductive maturity of the pandas is concerned, they achieve the same anywhere between the age of 4 and 8 years. They remain fertile until they reach the age of 20 years.
26. Females ovulate only during the spring months, that is only once in a year. During ovulation, there is a period of 2 to 3 days during which females can conceive.
27. Males and females get together during the mating season through mating calls or scents.
28. Females give birth to cubs only after 95 to 160 days after mating. Very rarely females give birth to two offsprings but most of the times only one manages to survive.
29. Because the cubs stay with their mothers for a minimum of 1.5 years, females can safely conceive only once in every two years. This is however true only in case of pandas in the wild. In protected and planned breeding conditions, females can conceive once every year.
30. In th wild, the female pandas usually raise 5-8 cubs through their lifetime.
Interesting Giant Panda Facts: 31-40
31. We know that pandas are considered to be endangered species. This happened because of several factors like habitat loss due to human activities, illegal hunting etc. Together with this, the slow breeding rate simply made things worse for these animals.
32. Adult pandas are massive in size but the cub are just opposite. They are tiny and weigh no more than 3-5 ounces.
33. A panda cub is born hairless and blind but as it grows, fur develops and eyes open up over time.
34. Cubs are about 1/900th size of their mothers at birth and are pink in color. They are absolutely helpless and mother pandas needs to put in significant efforts to raise such small babies.
35. The extraordinarily small size of the cubs make them the smallest newborn mammals at birth on this planet. Other animals like opossum and kangaroos give birth to even smaller babies but unfortunately the two animals are marsupials.
36. New born cubs open their eyes only when they reach the age of 6-8 weeks and start moving around only when there are 3 months old.
37. World Conservation Union has listed pandas as an extremely endangered species of animal. They are so endangered that they have been put on RED LIST.
38. In the wild, only 1600 of these animals are alive while 300 more are taken care of in zoos.
39. In China, a person found guilty of killing a panda is punished by death.
40. Finally, pandas are territorial animals and a giant panda usually maintains a territory of 5 square kilometers. They keep they their territories marked with a waxy scent they secret from their body. If one panda gets into the territory of another panda, they two may growl and swat at each other during face-to-face encounters and if things get ugly, they may just bite each other.
Did you know that it is the big round head and big eyes of the pandas that trigger cute response in humans? Cute response is a type of chemical reaction in humans which make them feel like nurturing, cuddling and loving others. It is an instinct that has been present in humans since the very beginning.