Animal of the Issue: Giant Panda

The female giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Photo Credit / Rebecca Jasulevicz
The female giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Photo Credit / Rebecca Jasulevicz
The female giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
Photo Credit / Rebecca Jasulevicz

By Briana Magistro

SC Staff Writer 

In today’s culture, pandas can be found on any kind of merchandise due to their rarity.

They are the symbol for the World Wildlife Foundation, as well as many other conservation organizations.

Although it belongs to the same carnivorous order as the wolf and wildcat, the feral panda’s diet consists almost entirely of bamboo, which is abundant in China’s lowlands.

Originally found in the lowlands and plains of south central China, wild giant pandas have been forced to move to higher mountainous regions due to industrialization.

The move to higher ground diminishes the amount of bamboo available to these bears, as bamboo does not grow as well in the mountains.

Being a large bear, the panda needs to eat a lot. Without as much food, pandas must gain larger territories.

Larger territories and a solitary disposition have pushed the panda closer to humans.

Extensive research and conservation methods have been progressing over the years regarding the preservation of the panda.

The giant panda shares its name with another animal that isn’t even a bear – the red panda.

The word “panda” comes from a word meaning “mottled colored,” as both animals have very strange color patterns compared to other animals in their family.

The red panda is in the same family as weasels and raccoons.

To differentiate the two animals, “giant” was given to the panda bear, as it is rather large, and “red” was given to the other due to its rusty red coat.

The giant panda sports a white and black coat, completely different to any other bear.

Only the spectacled bear, a close cousin to the panda, has the same type of pattern on its face. It has a dark body, lightface, and dark rings around its eyes.

Although nothing has been proven, most zoologists believe that the striking black and white pattern may be a way for pandas to find one another.

Living in dense forests, finding another panda during mating season can be difficult.

This is because they live alone during the rest of the year.

A coat pattern that stands out among trees can be useful, especially considering the giant panda does not have any natural predators and its prey cannot run away.

Another difference between pandas and other bears is that the giant panda has an extra bony digit on its forepaws.

This “thumb” does not have a claw and was adapted solely to aid in handling sleek bamboo pieces.

Panda bears can be seen in just a few zoos around the world.

The closest zoo to ESU that houses pandas is the National Zoo in Washington D.C., where the most recent captive birth occurred.

The panda cub Bao Bao, just nine months old, and both of her parents can be found there, along with many other exotic and rare animals.

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