Introduction and Pandas are the rarest and the most distinctively marked bear species. They are of two types namely lesser, or red, pandas and the giant pandas. Their basic color is white with black eye patches, ears, shoulders, chest, legs, and feet (Helmer 5&.8).
Pandas have huge crushing molars that are able to pierce the fibrous stalks of bamboo plants, and have very developed muscles round their jaws to assist them in chewing stiff bamboo stalks and this gives their heads a round look. Moreover, they have very flexible forepaws for holding bamboo with a huge wrist bone that operates as a distinctive ‘sixth digit,’ that somewhat functions similar to a human thumb. The hind feet of pandas have no heel pads, although they are still able to move easily and silently. Moreover, pandas have a very wide esophagus that helps them swallow large bamboo pieces (Ratledge, 4&.5).
Predators and Defenses
Human beings are the major enemy to pandas – men hunt the animals for their exceptional and expensive colored hides. Once pandas roam near homesteads, villagers’ roving dogs attack them. Snow leopards are other enemies of the panda cubs. Another enemy of infant panda cubs is the owl. Panda attacks are uncommon but when provoked, pandas can attack human and other predators in defense (Bearlife.org, 16-19 &. EnchantedLearning.com, 21).
The diet that pandas take is very particular – it consists virtually exclusively of different bamboo species’ shoots, stalks, leaves, and stems and roots. Pandas spend 10-12 hours eating bamboo daily. A grown-up panda can eat between 22-40 pounds of bamboo every day. They eat approximately 84 pounds of green bamboo shoots daily. Pandas eat more than fifteen different types of Bamboo. Their intestinal system is inefficient, which is the reason as to why they feed for so many hours daily (Ratledge, 6). When they get the chance, pandas eat meat (Pai, 5). Other studies indicate that if accessible in their environment, pandas may as well eat wild yams and may sporadically graze on grass. Some zoos also add-on vegetables, apples, rice cereal, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggs and bananas to the pandas’ diet (Bearlife.org).
Pandas live in cold and damp evergreen coniferous forests with dense bamboos for cover and food, and about an altitude of 4000-11,000 feet high. Pandas also used to exist in lower altitudes, but human beings’ encroachment drove the pandas into high mountains. Presently, pandas are mostly found in China, particularly in six small regions alongside Tibetan plateau’s eastern border (Ratledge, 2-3 &. Pai, 4). China’s National Zoo is home to giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, which are the center of attention of a determined conservation, breeding and research program intended to conserve these endangered animals (The National Zoological Park, 1&.2).
Reproduction among pandas is very slow, and the mortality rate of their cubs is high. Females reproduce only when they attain five to seven years. The animals mate during spring and like other species of bear, female pandas stay in heat for a short time only (usually 2-7 days). Male pandas often pronounce their presence to ready females by roaring. Usually, the mother bears 1-3 cubs in the beginning of fall, but often, because of bamboo diet’s limitations and the high nutritional requirements, she is only able to bring up one cub. Infant pandas are born blind and very small (only approximately 25% of a pound) and their fur is thick, fine and white. By the age of nine months, giant panda cubs are completely weaned. The cubs usually live with their mothers up to the age of one year and a half (Ratledge, 9 &. Pai, 11-12).
Other interesting facts about pandas
As EnchantedLearning.com records, pandas are generally shy and solitary. Their life span is not clear but according to Chinese scientists, some pandas in confinement have lived up to 35 years. Pandas are mainly active in the early sunset and at dawn and usually, when are not eating, they are resting. Pandas migrate to lower altitudes with better food accessibility and warmer weather during winter (Ratledge, 7-8).
Apparently, pandas are interesting species. However, poaching and human encroachment have made the animals become one of the most endangered species. People should make serious efforts of saving this species. For instance, there is need for discouraging deforestation, establishing more wildlife reserves and public education regarding coexisting with wildlife and conserving them to prevent their extinction.
Bearlife.org. Giant Panda Bear. 19 September 2011. Web. 17 May 2012. .
EnchantedLearning.com. All about Pandas. 01 September 2004. Web. 17 May 2012. .
Helmer, Diana S. Panda Bears. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 1997. Print.
Pai, S. Panda Bear Pictures, Information, Facts, Trivia. 24 February 2012. Web. 17 May 2012. .
Ratledge, Mark. Great Bear Foundation 2012. Great Bear Foundation. 2012. Web. 17 May. 2012. .
The National Zoological Park. News from the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. Smithsonian Institution. 2005. Web. 17 May 2012. .