In honor of National Panda Day, we’re sharing these 5 facts about pandas to help you learn more about the habits and habitat of this beloved bear.
While zoos and wildlife organizations around the world have coordinated captive breeding programs to ensure the panda’s continued existence, captive breeding is not as good as protecting pandas in the wild.
Pandas are unique among bears inbeing full herbivores in practice—their diet consists almost entirely of bamboo. The Cellulose in bamboo does not produce a lot of energy for pandas, so they have to eat almost constantly!
3. There are two panda subspecies
The commonly recognized panda subspecies accounts for the majority of pandas existing in the world today, which are predominantly found in the Sichuan region of China (or sadly, in captivity). However, there is also a rarer subspecies of panda that only lives in the Qinling Mountains of the Shaanxi region of China—these special pandas are a little smaller than the common giant panda, and their fur is brown and white, instead of black and white.
Neither of these panda subspecies is the same as the red panda (also called the “lesser panda”) which is a more distantly related cousin of the giant panda. The red panda is itself endangered—it’s found in the Himalayan Mountains, across Nepal and China.
4. Baby pandas are some of the smallest infant mammals
Due to the panda’s short gestation period, baby pandas are born weighing just 4 ounces. Baby pandas are actually the smallest offspring born to any placental mammal (relative to the size of the mother panda). Baby pandas are blind and nearly helpless at birth and require intensive care from their mothers during the first few months of their lives.
5. Pandas need our help
While these facts about pandas are undoubtedly fun to learn, they don’t change the sad reality that historically, giant pandas have been severely endangered. Successful conservation efforts in China to protect wild pandas and their bamboo forests helped the panda’s classification improve slightly from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in 2016. While zoos and wildlife organizations around the world have coordinated captive breeding programs to ensure the panda’s continued existence, captive breeding is not as good as protecting pandas in the wild.