Giant Panda Facts (PDF) by dfgh4bnmu


									U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Giant Panda Facts
(Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Giant panda. John J. Mosesso

What animal is black and white         Giant pandas are bears with             one or two cubs weighing 3 to 5
and loved all over the world? If you   striking black and white markings.      ounces each is born in a sheltered
guessed the giant panda, you’re        The ears, eye patches, legs and         den. Usually only one cub survives.
right!                                 shoulder band are black; the rest       The eyes open at 1 1/2 to 2 months
                                       of the body is whitish. They have       and the cub becomes mobile at
The giant panda is also known as       thick, woolly coats to insulate them    approximately three months of
the panda bear, bamboo bear, or in     from the cold. Adults are four to six   age. At 12 months the cub becomes
Chinese as Daxiongmao, the “large      feet long and may weigh up to 350       totally independent. While their
bear cat.” In fact, its scientific     pounds—about the same size as           average life span in the wild is
name means “black and white cat-       the American black bear. However,       about 15 years, giant pandas in
footed animal.”                        unlike the black bear, giant pandas     captivity have been known to live
                                       do not hibernate and cannot walk        well into their twenties.
Giant pandas are found only in         on their hind legs.
the mountains of central China—                                                Scientists have debated for more
in small isolated areas of the         The giant panda has unique front        than a century whether giant
north and central portions of the      paws—one of the wrist bones is          pandas belong to the bear family,
Sichuan Province, in the mountains     enlarged and elongated and is used      the raccoon family, or a separate
bordering the southernmost part of     like a thumb, enabling the giant        family of their own. This is because
Gansu Province and in the Qinling      panda to grasp stalks of bamboo.        the giant panda and its cousin,
Mountains of the Shaanxi Province.     They also have very powerful jaws       the lesser or red panda, share
                                       and teeth to crush bamboo.              many characteristics with both
Giant pandas live in dense bamboo                                              bears and raccoons. Recent DNA
and coniferous forests at altitudes    While bamboo stalks and roots           analysis indicates that giant pandas
of 5,000 to 10,000 feet. The           make up about 95 percent of its         are more closely related to bears
mountains are shrouded in heavy        diet, the giant panda also feeds on     and red pandas are more closely
clouds with torrential rains or        gentians, irises, crocuses, fish, and   related to raccoons. Accordingly,
dense mist throughout the year.        occasionally small rodents. It must     giant pandas are categorized in the
                                       eat 20 to 40 pounds of food each        bear family while red pandas are
Giant pandas have existed since        day to survive, and spends 10 to 16     the only members of their family,
the Pleistocene Era (about 600,000     hours a day feeding.                    Ailuridae.
years ago), when their geographic
range extended throughout              The giant panda reaches breeding        In 1869, a French missionary and
southern China.Fossil remains also     maturity between 4 and 10 years of      naturalist named Pere Armand
have been found in present-day         age. Mating usually takes place in      David was the first European to
Burma.                                 the spring, and 3 to 5 months later,    describe the giant panda.
In 1936, clothing designer Ruth        of the demand for land and natural      In 1984, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Harkness brought the first live        resources by China’s 1.3 billion        Service listed the giant panda
giant panda, named Su-Lin, out of      inhabitants.                            as an endangered species under
China and to the West. Su-Lin lived                                            the Endangered Species Act.
at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo and was    To offset this situation, the Chinese   Endangered means a species is
a celebrity until he died in 1938.     government has set aside more           considered in danger of extinction
                                       than 40 nature reserves where           throughout all or a significant
Today, about 300 giant pandas          bamboo flourishes and giant pandas      portion of its range. This protection
are in captivity in Chinese zoos,      are thought to live. The government     also prohibits giant pandas from
reserves, and breeding centers.        also placed a moratorium on             being imported into the United
Only about 24 giant pandas live        logging in panda habitat through        States except under certain
in zoos outside of China. In 1980,     2010.                                   conditions.
the first giant panda birth outside
China occurred at the Mexico City      Giant pandas are also susceptible       The giant panda is also protected
Zoo.                                   to poaching, or illegal killing, as     under the Convention on
                                       their dense fur carries a high          International Trade in Endangered
Giant pandas are among the rarest      price in illegal markets in the Far     Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
mammals in the world—there are         East. The Chinese government has        (CITES), a treaty among 175
an estimated 1,600 left in the wild.   imposed life sentences for those        nations aimed at illegal trade in
Although adult giant pandas have       convicted of poaching giant pandas.     endangered animal and plant
few natural enemies, the young         Recent sentences, however, have         species.
are sometimes preyed upon by           been much less.
leopards.                                                                      The Fish and Wildlife Service is the
                                       The low reproductive capacity of        federal agency responsible for the
Habitat encroachment and               the giant panda makes it more           U.S. government’s implementation
destruction are the greatest threats   vulnerable to these threats, and        of CITES. The Service has
to the continued existence of the      less capable of rebounding from its     established a panda policy to assist
giant panda. This is mainly because    low numbers.                            zoos applying for giant panda
                                                                               importation permits. The policy
                                                                               focuses on the conservation of the
                                                                               species in the wild.

                                                                               Giant pandas are currently housed
                                                                               in four U.S. zoos —San Diego,
                                                                               Atlanta, National, and Memphis
                                                                               — under permits issued by the
                                                                               Service following the Giant Panda

                                                                               U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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                                                                               Division of Management Authority
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                                                                               Arlington, VA 22203
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                                                                               January 2011

Giant panda Frank Kohn/USFWS

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