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Panda Bears, cute and adorable, are on the endangered species list. Their habitat, extremely limited diet and poor reproductive and infant survival combine to extremely threaten their survival.There are two kinds of Pandas. The giant white and black Panda is the one that comes to mind for most of us. But, there is also the Red Panda which is also called the lesser Panda.

There are very few Pandas left in the wild and zoologists have been largely unsuccessful in breeding them in captivity up to now. The Chinese government has taken steps to protect these endangered animals.

Pandas are only found in a relatively small area in Asia. They date back two to three million years ago.Ancient chinese history and writings abound with mention of the Panda. They were kept by emperors and their hides were highly valued. They carried a mystique and were believed to be able to ward off evil spirits and natural disasters.

Pandas live in and around mountainous slopes and exist on a diet largely comprised of bamboo shoots. They eat most of the day to consume the food they need for survival. There are about fifteen types of bamboo, reach with varying life cycles. Panda Bears eat primarily bamboo shoots. As die-offs in the bamboo cycle occur, the panda population also fall.

Westerners, in particular Americans, have a strong fondness for these cute creatures. If you talk to a Chinese person, they do not share this same fondness and wonder why we take such a liking to them.

The Giant Panda Bear:

The Giant Panda is white and black. An adult can grow to 3 1/2 to five feet and weigh up to 350 pounds. Their diet consists primarily of bamboo. An adult panda can consume 45 pounds of bamboo a day.

In the wild, adult female pandas give birth once a year and usually produce two cubs in the litter? A newborn cub will weigh around 5 ounces is all white and blind at birth. The black spots develop after about a month. A cub will begin to eat bamboo at about six months and be fully weaned after nine months. At the end of the first year they are about 70 to 80 pounds. The cubs will stay with their mother for about 1 1/2 years. A Panda reaches maturity at five to seven years and live in the wild for about 25 years.

While we generally refer to pandas as "bears" there is much discussion around whether they are bears, raccoons or their own species. They share some features of bears and some of raccoons. Let's let the zoologists continue their debate and we can focus on admiring these adorable creatures.

Did you Know? Giant Panda Bears do not hibernate during the winter. Due to their leaner diets, they do not build u the excess fat needed to hibernate.

Giant Pandas are an endangered species. There are only between 600 - 1000 in the wild. There are also about 60 in zoos around the world. Low reproductive rates, high infant mortality rates, poaching and human settlement in the Panda's territory are the primary causes of it's dwindling numbers. In addition, Pandas are solitary creatures and breed in the wild infrequently.

Did you know? The Chinese word for Panda is "Xiongmao" or Giant Cat Bear.

Giant Pandas live on mountainous slopes in western China and Eastern Tibet. Sichuan province is home to many of these bears. Because of their limited number, there are very few in zoos. The main diet is bamboo shoots. They will also eat a small amount of fish and rodents. They range in very small areas, of about one square mile. Females range in even smaller areas.

In 1972, the Chinese government gave two Giant Pandas (a male and a female) to the U.S. They were given as a gesture of friendship for then President Richard M. Nixon opening U.S. relations with China. the giant Pandas were placed in the Washington zoo. The male was named Hsing-Hsing and the female Ling-Ling. This author 's love for Pandas began with a visit to the zoo. Ling-Ling died of heart failure in 1992. Hsing-Hsing at 28 years old, is still alive, although he had cancer surgery in 1997. There are also two Pandas in the San Diego zoo,

The bears mated and Ling-Ling gave birth to three sets of twins during the 1980's. Unfortunately, all of the cubs died shortly after birth. Since the death of Ling-Ling there have been no Pandas in the U.S. Reproductive rates of Pandas are low, with low fertility rates for both the male and female. To make matters more difficult, the breeding period lasts a mere 24 - 48 hours.Major efforts are underway by both the Chinese and the U.S. to develop successful artificial insemination of captive pandas to increase their numbers. Hopes for the Panda Bears' long term survival probably depend on the success of these programs.

A group of pandas is called an "Embarrassment". They werre given this name due to their clumsy nature.Other names for a group of pandas includes: a "cupboard of pandas" and a "bamboo of pandas".

Red Pandas or Lesser Panda:

While the Giant Panda is more like a bear, the Red Panda is more like the Raccoon family. In physical appearance, it bears an unquestionable resemblance to the raccoon. The Red Panda is reddish brown in color. It grows to about two feet and weighs six to twelve pounds.

The Red Panda also lives in China and Tibet. In addition, it can be found in Burma, India and Nepal. While the Giant Panda sticks mostly to the ground, the Red Panda spends a lot of time in the trees. It's diet is broader. While it eats bamboo, it also consumes acorns and roots.


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