This striking species has suffered greatly in the wild due to human encroachment onto its disappearing habitat.
Pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo, and need to eat vast quantities to meet their energy requirements. Despite extensive protective measures, pandas are being forced into smaller and increasingly isolated and fragmented pockets of habitat where there is often insufficient bamboo to support the declining populations. They are generally solitary, with each individual holding their own territory – they only tend to socialise in the brief breeding season. In 2015 the giant panda population was estimated at only 1,864. Gifts of giant pandas to outside zoos formed an important part of the diplomacy of the People’s Republic of China in the 1970s; with the practice being named ‘panda diplomacy’. The giant panda is part of the only lineage in the Carnivora order of mammals to have lost their carnivorous diet and become herbivores secondarily. They are the only living members of their genus, which is the only living genus in the sub family Ailuropodinae.
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Ursidae
- Population: 1, 864
- Trend: increasing
- Size: 1.2-1.5m
- Weight: 75-160kg
The Giant Panda’s range is highly fragmented, once widespread throughout southern China, and as far north as Beijing and south into Southeast Asia, the Panda’s distribution is now confined to its previous western extremity in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
Habitat and Ecology
Giant Pandas typically occupy temperate montane forests at altitudes of 1,500–3,000 m. Giant Pandas have evolved to specialize on a diet of bamboo a poor food source and must eat up to 12.5kg per day. Giant Pandas are a solitary and seasonal-breeding mammal, only coming together during the breeding season, from March to May, for reproductive purposes. Because Pandas live a solitary existence, they must rely heavily on chemosignals to communicate with one another without necessitating face-to-face encounters.