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The giant panda is a very beautiful and rare animal. The panda is found in the bamboo forests of south central China. Its distinctive coat is white with black markings around its eyes, ears, and front and back legs.
The canine teeth of the panda are pointed like a lion. However, the panda prefers a diet mainly of bamboo instead of meat. Its teeth are designed to chew and crush the thick bamboo, and it can chew more than 3,000 bamboo stalks in one day.
Pandas are very flexible so that they can do amazing twists and turns. They even do somersaults. They were designed with a special wrist bone to keep bamboo stalks in their fingers.
Pandas are generally solitary and do not hibernate in the winter but continue to forage the forest for food. They do not mind the snow at all and have even been observed playing in it.
Babies are born between July and September, most often in a hollow tree. As many as two babies are born, but generally only one survives. They are very tiny when born but grow rapidly. Baby pandas cannot run, climb trees, or eat bamboo until they are about 7 months old. They will stay with their mother until they are 18 to 20 months old.
The panda’s enemies include leopards and wild dogs. Pandas have very powerful jaws and teeth which they use to protect their young.
The estimated panda population is fewer than 1,500. Farming and housing have replaced much of its original habitat. Also endangering their population is the bamboo plant itself. From time to time, certain types of bamboo will flower and die, leaving no bamboo for the panda. This has caused many pandas to die of starvation.
Pandas do not survive well in captivity. The first pandas to be shipped to zoos lived only four or five years and died without producing any offspring. It is still rare to see a panda in a zoo and even more rare to see a baby panda.
Carnivora • Procyonidae • Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Height: 6 feet (1.8 m)
Weight: 200 pounds (90 kg)
Length: 5 feet (150 cm)
Life Span: 26 years
Special Design Feature: Pandas have a very special wrist bone to help keep the bamboo in their fingers.
Did You Know? Pandas can chew on more than 3,000 bamboo sticks in one day.