Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
Species:melanoleuca Length: about 5 feet (1.5 meters) Height at shoulder: 27 to 32 inches (70 to 80 centimeters) Weight: 220 to 330 pounds (100 to 150 kilograms), with males
about 10 percent larger than females Life span: about 14 to 20 years in the wild; up to 30 in
managed care Gestation: 84 to 164 days Number of young at birth: 1 or 2 Size at birth: about 4 ounces (113 grams) Age of maturity: males— 6 to 7 years, females—4 to 5 years
The giant panda is the rarest member of the bear family and among the world’s
most threatened animals.
Giant pandas are found only in the mountains of central China-in small isolated
areas of the north and central portions of the Sichuan Province, in the
mountains bordering the southernmost part of Gansu Province, and tin the Qinling
Mountains of the Shaanxi Province. Pandas are about the same size of an American
black bear, giant pandas stand between two and three feet tall at the shoulder
(on all four legs), and reach four to six feet long. Males are larger than
females, weighing up to 250 pounds in the wild. Females rarely reach 220 pounds.
Giant pandas reach breeding maturity between four and eight years of age. Female
pandas ovulate only once a year, in the spring. A short period of two to three
days around ovulation is the only time she is interested in mating and able to
conceive. Calls and scents draw males and females to each other. Female giant
pandas give birth between 95 and 160 days after mating.
Although females may give birth to two young, only one usually survives. Giant
panda cubs may stay with their mothers for up to three years before striking out
on their own. This means a wild female, at best, can produce young only every
other year; in her lifetime, she may successfully raise only five to eight cubs.
The giant pandas’ naturally slow breeding rate prevents a population from
recovering quickly from illegal hunting, habitat loss, and other human-related
causes of mortality.
Five major North American zoos
have giant pandas:
San Diego Zoo, San Diego,
California - home of Bai Yun (F), Gao Gao (M), Mei Sheng (M), and a female cub
named Su Lin
US National Zoo, Washington,
D.C. - home of Mei Xiang(F), Tian Tian(M), and a male cub named Tai Shan
Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
- home of Lun Lun(F), Yang Yang(M) and a female cub named Mei Lan(F)
Memphis Zoo, Memphis,
Tennessee - home of Ya Ya (F) and Le Le (M) Chapultepec Zoo,
Mexico City, Mexico - home of
Shuan Shuan, Xin Xin and Xi Hua, all females
Zoologischer Garten Berlin,
Berlin, Germany - home of Bao Bao, age 27, the oldest panda living in
captivity; he has been in Berlin for 25 years and has never reproduced.
Vienna, Austria - home to two
pandas (a male and a female) born in Wolong, China in 2000.
Chengdu Panada Breeding
Research Centre, Chengdu, China - Home to Xiong Bong (M), son of YongMing and
Chiang Mai Zoo, northern
Thailand - home to Chuang Chuang (M) and Lin Hui (F). Much to the joy of the
public, the two have recently been observed mating and it is hoped that cubs
will be produced from the union.
Ocean Park, Hong Kong - home
to Jia Jia (F) and An An (M). Pandas in Japan have double names: a Japanese
name and a Chinese name.
Ueno Zoo, Tokyo - home of Ling
Ling (M), he is the only panda with "Japanese citizenship".
Oji Zoo, Kobe, Hyogo - home of
Kou Kou (M), Tan Tan (F)
Adventure World, Shirahama,
Wakayama - Ei Mei (M), Mei Mei (F), Rau Hin (F), Ryu Hin and Syu Hin (male
twins), and Kou Hin (M). Yu Hin (M) went to China in 2004. In December 2006,
twin cubs were born to Ei Mei and Mei Mei.
Smithsonian Institute Map
The map labeled PREHISTORIC PANDA DISTRIBUTION shows the approximate
original distribution of giant pandas.
The map labeled HISTORIC PANDA DISTRIBUTION shows the approximate
distribution of giant pandas during most of the last 2,000 years.
The third map shows the CURRENT PANDA DISTRIBUTION
It is estimated that
there are somewhere around 700 and 1,600 giant pandas still alive in the wild.
About 220 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in
Issues Threatening Pandas
Bamboo is the most important plant in a giant panda's life. Pandas live in cold
and rainy bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China. They spend at
least 12 hours each day eating bamboo. Because bamboo is so low in nutrients,
pandas eat as much as 84 pounds (38 kilograms) of it each day. Pandas grasp
bamboo stalks with their five fingers and a special wristbone, then use their
teeth to peel off the tough outer layers to reveal the soft inner tissue. Strong
jaw bones and cheek muscles help pandas crush and chew the thick stalks with
their flattened back teeth. Bamboo leaves are also on the menu, as pandas strip
them off the stalks, wad them up, and swallow them. Giant pandas have also been
known to eat grasses, bulbs,eggs,fish, fruits, some insects, and even rodents
The panda's dependency on bamboo as a main food source is a problem. Each
species of bamboo has a unique reproductive cycle. Some bamboos die within one
to two years after flowering, while others do not die, but their vegetative
growth slows. Then it can take approximately 5 to 10 years for it to regenerate
to the point of being a reliable food source again. There are many different
types of bamboo in China- about 300 species, but the panda will only eat about
10 to 15 different varieties.
Habitat destruction— China has more than one billion people. As people build
more cities and farms and use more natural resources, giant pandas lose their
When hunters set snares for other animals, like musk deer, the traps often kill
By mid-2005, the Chinese government had established over 50 panda reserves,
protecting more than 10,400km² and over 45% of remaining giant panda habitat.
However, habitat destruction continues to pose a threat to the many pandas
living outside these areas, and poaching is a further problem. Today, only
around 61% of the population, or about 980 pandas, are under protection in
reserves. As China's economy continues its rapid development, it is more
important than ever to ensure the giant panda's survival.
Credit: The San Diego Zoo , The
Smithsonian Zoological Park, Zoo Atlanta, PBS, National Geographic
Data compiled from The
British Antarctic Study, NASA, Environment Canada, UNEP, EPA and
other sources as stated and credited Researched by Charles
Welch-Updated daily This Website is a project of the The Ozooe Hole