Giant pandas are black and white bears.
They live only in China.
They eat a plant called bamboo.
There are not many pandas left in the forests.
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They are black and white bears with round heads, small black ears and white faces. They have a black patch around each eye. They have short tails. They walk on all fours and can climb trees, often doing so to find a place to sleep.
An adult Giant Panda is about 150 centimetres long and weighs about 90 kilograms, although the biggest one ever weighed was 180 kilograms.
Distribution and Habitat (where they are found)
Giant Pandas are endemic to China, which means they are found nowhere else.
They live in bamboo forests in the mountains of western China.
The forests are very thick and the pandas are generally hidden from view, so it has been hard for scientists to learn about them. This lack of knowledge adds to the difficulty of saving the pandas.
Once they were found throughout China, but the bamboo forests in eastern China have been cut down for farming. This has made the forest areas into 'islands', making it impossible for the bears to roam widely and meet each other to mate.
About 99% of the Giant Panda's food is bamboo, though it also eats grass, roots, plants and even meat. Bamboo is actually a type of grass that grows as tall as trees. Although there are hundreds of kinds of bamboo, the Giant Panda eats only 4 or 5 kinds. It is estimated that a Giant Panda can chew more than 3,500 stalks or leaves, or about 20-22 kg, of bamboo a day. Bamboo is not very nutritious, so the Giant Panda spends about 12-14 hours a day feeding.
The front paws of the Giant Panda are specially adapted to help it hold bamboo. There is a bone on each palm that looks a bit like a thumb. The panda's five fingers wrap around the bamboo stalk, and the 'thumb' moves forward to jam against the bamboo so that it is firmly held. The very large teeth, strong jaws and huge cheek muscles help crush the hard bamboo.
Baby pandas are very small when they are born, weighing about 120 grams. This is very tiny in proportion to the size of its mother. The mother holds the new baby in a similar way to a human, cradling it in her arms. The baby panda's eyes open after about 40 days. At one month old the black markings can be seen on their pink skin. At three months old the young pandas are furry, black and white miniatures of their parents. They crawl when they are about 3-4 months old. At 7 months, a young panda weighs about 9 kilograms, runs and climbs trees, and has started eating bamboo. At about 18 months, it weighs about 55 kilograms, and will soon leave its mother.
Giant Pandas are classified as Endangered because the bamboo forests are being cleared for farming. Different types of bamboo die off every 40 to 100 years and because of the clearing, there are fewer types of bamboo left. Pandas often starve when the bamboo dies off. In the past they were hunted for their fur or were trained as performing circus animals. Giant Pandas are now protected by law.
In China, research and breeding centres have been set up and are trying to breed them to increase their numbers. This is a very slow and difficult process, and so far the success is limited.
Go here for more pictures of giant pandas
Go here to find out more about giant pandas
See this wonderful video showing some very rare footage of wild pandas... and a newborn panda:
A different kind of panda
There is another species, or kind, of panda. It is the Red Panda, sometimes called the Lesser panda or the Nepalese Red Panda. Click here to find out about it.
|Read more about Giant Pandas
|Find out about the 8 different kinds of bears
If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Giant Panda [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2000)
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