Pandas are perhaps the most fascinating creatures that are on the planet today. Although these giant creatures look like massive, cuddly stuffed animals and they are a simple of peace in China, they can also be aggressive animals at times as well if they feel threatened. These animals are extremely endangered, with just 1,000 pandas left in the world today. It is hoped to increase their population to 5,000 in the next decade.
Knowing more about pandas is the key to their survival. Here are some interesting facts about these beautiful animals to consider.
1. It Is the Yin and the Yang
The Yin and Yang is the philosophy that two opposing forces come together to make one universe. The circular black and white symbol of this philosophy is very familiar to everyone, but many do not know that the panda is also considered a representation of Yin and Yang. When in its habitat, the gentle nature of the panda is considered a demonstration of how these two opposing forces can be brought together in peace.
Make a panda angry, however, and you’ll also get to see how two opposing forces can try to destroy something in seconds.
2. It’s Hard To Get a Panda Pregnant
The reason why pandas are in such low numbers is that a female panda only ovulates once per year. That means there are only 48-72 hours where she can conceive before the entire year is lost. Although that’s an effective form of birth control, it makes it difficult to expand the population. At best, a female panda will have 3 or 4 cubs over the course of her entire life.
The challenges of a panda pregnancy don’t stop there. The eyes of a panda cub don’t open for about 4 weeks and it can be sometimes as much as six weeks. It might be the size of the average human baby at two months of age, but a cub won’t leave its mothers for nearly two years. By the end of the first month, a baby panda has its spots, but the panda’s senses are based on spatial recognition, not visual recognition.
3. Pandas and Zoos Won’t Provide Survival
About 25% of the current panda population is in zoos and most of the animals are actually there because they’re on loan from the Chinese government. Zoos aren’t going to insure the animal’s survival because the black market trade for these animals is extensive. A poached panda fur can catch up to $100k or more in illegal trade and that’s a lot of monetary incentive to break the law.
It is true that mother pandas that are in captivity are more likely to have twins than mothers out in the wild. The trouble is that these baby cubs are so small when compared to their mothers that it is just as likely that the mother will crush the cub while caring for it as it will survive. More than 50% of cubs end up dying of disease or crushing, even in captivity.
4. Would You Like to Eat Bamboo?
99% of the panda’s diet comes from bamboo. Even though they can stand up on their hind legs and walk upright, which some cubs do quite regularly, the bulk of the adult panda requires it to sit and walk on all fours when it is time to move. That’s also why you can find a panda eating bamboo for up to 16 hours per day, every day, come rain or shine.
Unlike other bears, pandas don’t hibernate when the winter months come. Even though an adult panda may weigh up to 300 pounds, the fat content that they are able to build-up with their almost exclusive bamboo diet is very minimal. The other issue that pandas face is that they can’t digest most of the food they eat either.
5. It’s a Predator Free Life.
Pandas are large enough that they don’t have any natural predators in their habitat. Some leopards will try to capture a panda cub here or there, but the adult animals don’t have any other creatures besides humans trying to hunt them down.
That is one of the issues of concern, however, because a panda isn’t considered a full adult until they are about 5 years old. For male pandas, it can take up to 7 years to reach adulthood. That means many pandas end up spending nearly a quarter of their life in childhood, running away from a speedy leopard if mom isn’t around. And, for at least 3 years, mom isn’t going to be around.
6. Do Pandas Have Thumbs?
Not many animals have what could really be considered a thumb. Apes and raccoons both have hands that are perfect for grasping, but so does the panda. Even though they really just have big bear mitts, there’s a very real thumb included on their paw. This allows them to grab the bamboo and hold it while they are eating it.
Although their eyesight might not necessarily be the best, the panda’s sense of smell is extraordinary. If you want to attract a panda, wear some bamboo scented cologne because they will smell you from miles away. This is how they can locate a new field of bamboo to enjoy or return to their favorite locations for a good lunch of plant munching.
7. Would You Like a Chair With That?
Pandas won’t graze when they are eating. They also won’t stand on all fours. Pandas will instead sit upright when it is time to have some tasty bamboo. Because they can hold extra stalks, it isn’t uncommon to see a panda holding a bunch of bamboo in one arm while they are pulling off leaves with their paws to eat. Even the young ones who can walk upright more often will sit to eat.
This also makes it easier to live with all that bamboo moving through the digestive system. After all, and adult panda can leave 62 pounds of droppings per day. That requires a lot of sitting to make that happen.