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Top 10 things you need to know about pandas

(People's Daily Online)    15:08, June 05, 2019

Photo taken on May 25, 2019 shows baby giant pandas at the "Giant Panda Kindergarten" in the Shenshuping base of China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas in Wolong, southwest China's Sichuan Province. (Xinhua/Xue Yubin)

1. How long does it take pandas to search for and eat bamboo every day? How much do they eat every day?

Research shows that giant pandas spend 10-14 hours foraging and eating every day. Inhabiting dense forests at an altitude of between 2,600 and 3,500 meters, wild pandas mainly live off bamboo. They have a good appetite in spring and eat bamboo shoots with an average daily consumption of 40 kilograms. They eat bamboo stems in the summer. When the autumn comes, pandas will feed on the tender bamboo branches and leaves, which are more nutritious and have less crude fiber. In autumn, pandas only need to consume 11-13 kilograms of bamboo every day.

2. How long can a panda live?

Wild pandas have a life expectancy of about 20 years while those living in captivity usually live 10 years longer, with the record age being around 36 years old, which is equal to a human being reaching 100 years old.

3. Do pandas live alone or in groups?

Pandas are solitary animals. Most of the time, they live in their own well-defined territories. The gestation period of a panda is 60 to 200 days. After conception, a male and female panda will live separately, and the female panda will raise any baby pandas alone, who will leave the care of the mother after a year and a half.

4. What else do pandas eat besides bamboo?

In the wild, 99 percent of pandas' nutrition comes from bamboo, but sometimes they may eat other things. Occasionally, pandas snack on elm, pumpkin, kidney beans and beardless wheat. They also eat the fruits of some wild plants, and dead animals, such as bamboo rats. Pandas bred in captivity also enjoy honey, apples and steamed cornbread.

5. Do pandas hibernate?

Unlike the rest of the bear family such as polar bears, pandas don't hibernate through the cold winter. The sebaceous glands in their skin can produce an oil-like substance and make their thick hair smooth and shiny, which protects them from low temperatures and moisture.

6. Can they swim?

No scientists have observed whether giant pandas can swim in a river. They have been seen basking in shallow water in hot weather though.

7. Can they climb trees?

Pandas are experts at climbing trees. At the age of 6 months, panda cubs will be taught to climb trees by their mothers. While raising baby pandas, the mothers usually live in caves or tree holes.

8. What is a typical panda habitat?

Natural disasters, climate change, and shrinking natural habitats as a result of human activities have already posed a threat to pandas. Existing habitats include the dense bamboo forests in China's Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. The known 1,864 wild pandas in the country are divided into 33 groups and scattered in six mountain ranges including Qinling, Minshan, Qionglai, Liangshan, Daxiangling and Xiaoxiangling in the three provinces. Eighteen groups with a population of less than 10 giant pandas face a very high risk of extinction.

9. Will pandas attack human beings?

Typically, a panda wouldn't attack a human. When they come across humans in the wild, they usually choose to run away. However, wild pandas can be pretty aggressive, and even pandas reared by humans can sometimes hurt people.

10. Why do pandas enjoy the reputation of "living fossils"?

Giant pandas have lived on earth for at least 8 million years. Many species from the same era have already died out. With the keen ability to adapt to the changing natural environment, pandas survived. That's why they enjoy the reputation of living fossils.

The giant panda is a symbol of the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature and are a flagship species for the world's biodiversity conservation. It is a Class A protected animal in China.

It is also a protected animal in the following lists:

Listed in the CITES species, level I

Listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2012--Endangered

Listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2016--Vulnerable

Listed in the List of Wild Animals under State Priority Conservation, level I

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is responsible for checking the science facts in this article.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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