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Giant Panda   

Must-know about giant pandas

APPEARANCE The sharply contrasting black and white coloration, added to the stocky characteristic shape of a bear, makes the giant panda one of the most recognizable animals in the world. The head, top of the neck and rump are white, while small patches of fur around the eyes, the ears, shoulders, front legs, and rear legs are black. When compared with other bears, the head of the giant panda is large in relation to its body. The front paw has six digits as a result of the radial sesamoid, the wrist bone, becoming extended to form an awkward, but functional, opposable thumb. The male genitalia are small and pointed to the rear, which is more similar to the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) than to other bears.

Panda in Dujiangyan Panda Base

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SIZE Adult giant pandas range in body length from about 160 to 190 centimeters (64 to 76 inches). Males are slightly longer than females, have stronger forelegs, and are 10 to 20 percent heavier. In the wild males weigh from 85 to 125 kilograms (190 to 275 pounds), while females range between 70 and 100 kilograms (155 to 220 pounds). At birth, cubs weigh only 85 to 140 grams (3 to 5 ounces).

HABITAT Giant pandas live at an altitude of between 1,200 and 3,500 meters (4,000 and 11,500 feet) in mountain forests that are characterized by dense stands of bamboo. Home ranges average 8.5 square kilometers (3.3 square miles) for ma les and 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) for females.

DISTRIBUTION Pandas are found only in western China, along the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. Although they were once more widespread, today they are limited to six small areas in Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces, totaling only 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles).

REPRODUCTION Pandas reach sexual maturity from four-and-a-half to six-and-a-half years of age and mate during the spring, from March to May. Females are in estrus for one to three weeks, but peak receptiveness lasts for only a few days. Litters of one, two, or occasionally three cubs are born in August or September, usually in a hollow tree or cave. Normally, only one cub is raised. Although cubs are usually weaned at about nine months of age, they remain with their mothers for up to 18 months.

SOCIAL SYSTEM Except for females accompanied by cubs, giant pandas live a solitary existence. During the breeding season, several males may compete for access to a female. Home ranges of females are usually mutually exclusive, although they overlap occasionally, while the home range of each male may overlap those of several females. Pandas communicate by rubbing an acetic smelling substance-secreted by glands surrounding an genital area-onto tree trunks and stones. They also scratch trees. Most territorial marking is thought to be done by males. Pandas are quite vocal and eleven distinct calls have been identified in the wild, although the function of each is not understood. In captivity, females vocalize during estrus as well.

DIET More than 99 percent of the food consumed by giant pandas consists of the branches, stems, and leaves of at least 30 species of bamboo, the species eaten varying from region to region. Adults consume 12 to 15 kilograms (26 to 33 pounds) of food per day when feeding on bamboo leaves and stems. However, when feeding on new bamboo shoots, they are capable of eating up to 38 kilograms (84 pounds) per day, which is about 40 percent of their average body weight. Although the proportion is small, pandas also feed to a limited degree on other plants and a small amount of meat. They feed mainly on the ground but are capable of climbing trees as well. They are active mainly at twilight and at night.

Pandas in China

Best places to see pandas in China

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Situated on the Axe Hill 10 kilometers north of Chengdu this 600-acre research station and breeding ground has been in operation since in 1987, opened to the public in early in 1995. 39 pandas as well as other endangered species like lesser pandas and black-necked crane currently reside at the base in quarters. There is also a semi-wild breeding area where China's animal ambassadors will be eventually be allowed to freely roam. Established in 1992, the museum has detailed exhibits on panda evolution, habits, habitats and conservation efforts.

It is the most ideal ecological tourism place for visitors all around world to get to know the appearance of giant pandas and to get around the wild nature. It was awarded "Global 500" twice by the UN in the year of 1989 and 1994.

Website: http://www.panda.org.cn

Beijing Zoo

The Beijing Zoo was built in 1906 and opened to the public in 1908 with an area of about 10 hectares and a few humble pavilions to house the animals. Now the Beijing Zoo covers an area of about 50 hectares. The animal houses and enclosures, with a total floor space of 40,000 square meters, include those for pandas, elephants, brown and polar bears, tigers, hippopotami, rhinoceros, antelopes, giraffes and reptiles. More than 6,000 animals of over 500 species are on show.

The busiest area of the Beijing Zoo is the famous Panda House, home to giant and lesser pandas of China. It is located close to the south gate of the zoo. If you have never seen a panda bear, the Beijing Zoo is undoubtedly the best place to do it.

Panda at Beijing Zoo

Fuzhou Panda World/ Research Center

Located in Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian Province, Fuzhou Panda Research Center is a key research base for pandas in China, which has been engaged in spreading knowledge about pandas to the public for the past 20 years by organizing various educational activities. And it is also famous for its outstanding breakthroughs in scientific research programs, including the successful cloning of a panda embryo and the detection of some rare diseases of pandas. Besides, a cinema specializing in documentaries of giant pandas, allows the visitors to learn more about the beloved animal.

Recommended Panda Tours:

2-day Dujiangyan Panda Base Volunteer Tour from Chengdu

3-day Chengdu Panda Tour

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