LE PANDA GÉANT

THE GIANT PANDA

The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), also called panda, is a mammal resembling a bear who lives in bamboo forests from the mountains of central China. His striking black and white coat, combined with a voluminous body and round face, gives him a captivating appearance that made him love people. of the whole world.

According to the red list IUCN endangered species, there would be less 1,900 pandas in nature.

In this article we will talk about the following topics:

  • the characteristics and the identity card of the panda
  • what does the panda eat
  • the reproduction
  • how do newborns develop
  • the classification of the panda

After reading the article, you will be able to know all the main information about the panda.

panda jewel

PANDA IDENTITY SHEET

1) CHARACTERISTICS:

Large males can reach 1.8 meters long and weigh more than 100 kg ; females are generally smaller. Round black ears and black spots on the eyes stand out on a white face and neck. Black limbs, tail, legs and shoulders contrast with the white torso. The hind legs are directed inwards, which gives to pandas a waddled gait.

The pandas can easily stand on their hind legs and are often seen doing somersaults, to roll around and take dust baths. Although they are somewhat clumsy as climbers, pandas easily climb trees and, due to their resemblance to bears, are probably able to swim.

An unusual anatomical feature is an enlarged wrist bone that functions much like a thumb, which allows pandas to manipulate food with great dexterity.

giant bamboo panda

2) WHAT DO GIANT PANDAS EAT?

The panda diet is composed at 90-98% bamboo leaves, shoots and stems, a tall grass available year round in most forest regions of China. Despite the adaptations of its forelegs, teeth and jaws to bamboo consumption, the giant panda has preserved the digestive system of its carnivorous ancestors and is therefore unable to digest cellulose, one of the main components of bamboo.

The pandas solve this problem by passing prodigious amounts of weed through their digestive tract quickly and daily. Up to 16 hours a day are spent on food, and waste disposal is done up to 50 times a day. Fossilized dental remains indicate that the giant panda started using bamboo as its primary food source at least three million years ago. Although unable to capture prey, the pandas retain a taste for meat.

The species cannot survive naturally outside bamboo forests, although in captivity she was kept with cereals, milk, and garden fruits and vegetables. Bamboo is the healthiest diet for pandas in captivity.

what do giant pandas eat

3) THE SEASON OF LOVE AND REPRODUCTION:

The lonely nature of the giant panda is underlined by its dependence on its sense of smell (olfaction). Each animal limits its activities to an area of ​​around 4-6 km2, but these areas of habitation often overlap substantially.

In this context, odor serves to regulate contact between individuals. A large scent gland located just below the tail and surrounding the anus is used to leave olfactory messages to other pandas. The gland is rubbed against trees, rocks, and tufts of grass, and the scent conveys information about the identity, gender, and possibly social status of the individual marking it. The chemical analysis of the marks is consistent with a difference in function between males and females.

Males seem to use the scent to identify areas where they live, while females mostly use it to signal estrus. With the exception of maternal care of infants, the only social activity of pandas takes place during estrus females, which occurs annually in the spring and lasts one to three days.

A season of love in spring (March-May) and a birthing season in autumn (August-September) are observed in wild and captive populations. Males seem to spot females first by their scent and then by their vocalizations. Assemblies of one to five males per female have been recorded. At that time, males can get very aggressive as they compete for the opportunity to mate.

giant panda mating season

Like bears, giant pandas experience a delay in implantation of the fertilized egg into the lining of the uterus, a period of two to three months after mating.

The hormone levels in the urine of females indicate that the period of embryonic / fetal growth and development only lasts about two months. In total, gestation lasts an average of 135 days (with a range of 90 to 184 days), but due to the short growth phase, a full-term fetus weighs on average only around 112 grams. In relation to the mother, giant pandas produce the smallest offspring of any placental mammal (about 1/800 of the mother's weight). For the first two to three weeks of life, the mother uses her front legs and the wrist bones of her thumb to cuddle and position the cub against her in a fairly non-carnivorous manner and almost human.

Almost half of the 133 captive births recorded before 1998 were twins, but panda mothers are usually unable to care for more than one child. The reasons for the extremely small size of the offspring and the frequent production of twins are not understood, but both are common traits with bears.

4) THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEWBORNS:

The newborn panda is blind and has only a thin white coat. He is practically helpless, only able to suckle and vocalize. He depends on his mother for warmth, nourishment, breast positioning and stimulation of waste passage.

His development is slow during the first months. The eyes begin to open around 45 days, and the first staggering steps are taken towards 75-80 days. His state of helplessness forces him to be born in a den, an environment in which he lives for the first 100 to 120 days of his life. At around 14 months of age, the age at which the baby teeth erupted, the infant easily consumes bamboo, and at 18-24 months weaning of the mother takes place.

Separation from the mother must take place before a female can begin production of her next litter. Captive pandas can live for more than 30 years in captivity, but lifetime in the wild is estimated to be around 20 years old.

baby panda

5) CONSERVATION AND CLASSIFICATION:

The fossils of the northern Myanmar and Vietnam and much of China to Beijing indicate that the giant panda was widely distributed throughout East Asia at the start of the Pleistocene era (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). Destruction by man of its forest habitat, combined with poaching, has restricted the species to isolated fragments of mountain habitat along the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan (Szechwan), Shaanxi (Shensi) and Gansu (Kansu). The total area of ​​these habitats is about 13,000 km2 and, in recent times, the periodic massive flowering and the disappearance of bamboo have led to famine for some populations. (It takes five to ten years for bamboo forests to recover from these natural events.)

Since the 1990s, China has significantly extended its efforts conservation and now considers the panda as a national treasure. The reserve system has been extended from 14 to more than 40 sites, and international cooperation agreements have been put in place to provide training in reserve management and captive breeding. Panda has long been considered an endangered species by the IUCN, but the environmental organization has changed the status of the panda as "vulnerable" in 2016, due to China's success in habitat restoration bamboo forests.

The earlier periods when the pandas were given as giveaways and where zoos received short-term commercial loans gave way to loan agreements that generate funds for the preservation of the wild population. More than 120 pandas are kept in captivity in China, and another 15-20 are in zoos elsewhere. Captive populations are increasing. Su-Lin, the first of the giant pandas to be exhibited in the West, reached the United States as a baby in 1936, and was a popular attraction at the Brookfield Zoo, near Chicago, until his death in 1938. No Europeans observed a living giant panda in the wild until the Walter Stötzner expedition of 1913-15, although Armand David, a Vincentian missionary, discovered some panda furs in 1869.

The classification of giant pandas has long been a subject of controversy. Anatomical, behavioral, and biochemical data were used to place pandas with bears (Ursidae family), with raccoons (Procyonidae), or in a separate family (Ailuridae). Improved molecular analyzes carried out in the 1990s strongly suggest that the Bears are the closest relatives giant panda, and many of their behavioral and reproductive characteristics conform to this classification.

giant panda smiling

YOUR PANDA WORLD STORE:

In Panda universe we wish sensitize and educate all economic players. By proving that pandas are unique animals in the animal kingdom, but also in protecting and preserving their habitat, we will save many other species.

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