The giant panda is a unique animal that is also called the bamboo bear. To date, there is a possibility of the complete disappearance of this species of animals from the face of the earth, in connection with which they are listed in the international Red Book.
Bamboo bears are a symbol and national treasure of the People's Republic of China. They are awarded the honorary title of the cutest animal on our planet. Bears are one of the most interesting, most ancient and rare representatives of the animal world on earth.
Origin of the species and description
The giant panda is a carnivore mammals. Represents the bear family, separated into the genus and species of the giant panda.
To date, the origin and evolution of the amazing black and white bear is not fully understood. The first mention of this animal, which researchers were able to find on the territory of the western part of the People's Republic of China, indicates their existence about 2750 years ago. Some sources mention that the ancient khan of those distant times had a luxurious garden in which a huge bamboo bear lived. Subsequently, genetic examination will help to establish that animals, or their ancestors, existed on earth at least 2 million years ago.
Interesting fact: In ancient times, the giant panda was a very valuable gift, which was presented as a sign of great respect and reverence only to high-ranking, noble people.
In 1869, the French explorer and missionary Armand David traveled to the territory of the People's Republic of China. He was engaged in the study of his religion, as well as in parallel interesting and unusual representatives of the animal world. In one of the provincial villages of Sichuan, on the fence, he found a skin of black and white. He purchased the skin from the locals after they told him that it belonged to an animal that lives in the local area and is called bei shung.
Video: Giant panda
Translated from the local dialect, the name of the animal meant “white mountain bear.” The researcher sent the purchased skin of the animal to his homeland, and he decided to start looking for it. He found local hunters who agreed to sell him a hunted animal. After that, Armand David processed him the way the hunters had taught him, and transported him to his homeland. Having received the body of an unprecedented beast and its skeleton, scientists began to study its origin and create a theory of evolution.
For a long time, pandas were considered relatives of bears and raccoons. Moreover, scientists assumed that they are connected with raccoons no less in common than with bears, and maybe even more. However, in the course of recent genetic studies, it was found that they have much more in common with bears than with raccoons.
To date, there is no clear theory of the evolution of the giant panda. Many consider her the ancestors of modern bears, or followers of huge raccoons, or martens. However, many zoologists believe that this amazing animal does not belong to any of the currently existing animal species.
Appearance and Features
Outwardly, the giant panda has a similar body structure to bears. The body length of one adult individual reaches two meters, body weight – 150-170 kilograms. Black and white bears have a large, massive head relative to the body and a short tail. The height of the giant panda in the shoulder area reaches 68-75 centimeters.
The peculiarity of the animal lies in the unusual color – the alternation of black and white colors. Limbs, eyes, ears and shoulder girdle are black. From a distance it seems that the bear is wearing glasses, socks and a vest. Zoologists still cannot determine what caused such an unusual color of the giant panda. There is a version that it is associated with the initial habitat. Previously, the giant panda lived in mountainous areas, among snows and bamboo thickets. Therefore, black and white markings allowed the animals to go unnoticed.
A unique feature of the giant panda is the baculum, a bone that is formed from connective tissue in the penis area. Such a bone is present not only in pandas, but also in other mammals, but in them the bone is directed forward, while in bamboo bears it is backward, and has an S-shaped appearance.
Bamboo bears have voluminous, heavy shoulders, massive neck, and shortened limbs. This body structure creates a feeling of clumsiness and clumsiness. The giant panda has very powerful jaws, which are equipped with wide and flat teeth. This jaw structure allows pandas to easily bite through hard bamboo.
Interesting fact: The panda has a specific digestive system. The stomach has very thick, muscular walls. In the intestines there is a huge accumulation of mucus – a special substance with which rough and tough food is digested.
Another feature of the animal is the structure of the forelimbs. They have six fingers. Five of them are held together, and the sixth is set aside and is called the “panda thumb”. Zoologists say that this is not actually a finger, but a deformed bone process, which is designed to help the animal in the process of holding thick bamboo branches.
Where does the giant panda live?
The homeland of the bamboo bear is considered to be the People's Republic of China. However, even there, the animal is found only in certain regions.
Giant panda habitats:
A prerequisite for a panda's habitat is the presence of bamboo thickets. It can settle in hilly areas, or coniferous, deciduous, or mixed forests.
In ancient times, pandas lived almost everywhere – both in the mountains and on the plains. However, human activity, as well as the mass destruction of animals, contributed to a sharp decrease in the number of giant pandas. Those few individuals that remained in the wild prefer to hide away from human settlements in mountainous areas.
The height of the mountain slopes in the places of their existence reaches from 1100 to 4000 meters above sea level. When winter and cold come, pandas descend lower, to a height not exceeding 800 meters above sea level, since there is no such harsh climate and it is easier for animals to find food for themselves. Previously, the habitat of animals covered much wider areas, including Idochina and the island of Kalimantan.
What does the giant panda eat?
The bear acquired its second name “bamboo bear” due to the fact that the source of its nutrition is bamboo. It makes up 99% of a bear's diet. To get enough, one adult requires a huge amount of bamboo leaves and shoots – about 30-40 kilograms, depending on weight.
Due to the fact that the giant panda is a predator, it can eat insect larvae, small bugs, worms, and bird eggs. This food fills the need for protein. In addition to reeds and protein foods, animals are happy to eat young shoots and succulent leaves of other types of vegetation. Giant pandas feed on saffron bulbs, as well as iris.
When kept in artificial conditions, the panda is treated with sweets, lump sugar. In addition to cane food, she feeds in captivity on apples, carrots, liquid cereal porridge, and other foods. Employees of national parks and zoos, in which the panda lives in captivity, note that the animal is completely unpretentious in food and eats almost everything that is offered to it.
Under natural conditions, animals can eat both on trees and on the ground. They use strong, powerful teeth to bite and grab reed branches. The panda collects and holds long, hard reed branches and leaves in the forelimbs. The sixth finger is of great help in this. If you watch from the side, you can see that, despite the outward awkwardness, heaviness and sluggishness, the animals are very dexterous, skillfully and quickly wield their limbs and manage with a thick, long cane.
Interesting fact: Under natural conditions, with a large amount of food, animals gorge themselves to satiety. Therefore, they can often be lazy and clumsy. When food is scarce, they are able to move to other regions in search of reed beds.
Bamboo bears consume little liquid. The body's need for water is replenished by young, succulent reed shoots and green leaves, which are almost half water. If they meet a body of water, they will gladly get drunk enough.
Character and lifestyle features
Pandas are naturally endowed with the ability to deftly and very quickly climb trees. Despite this, most of the time they prefer to be on the ground. They are excellent swimmers. Animals are distinguished by great caution and secrecy. They do their best to hide from people. In this regard, people did not know anything about them for a very long time. Watching animals living in captivity, people noted a very dignified, majestic behavior. Bamboo bears behave like real representatives of noble blood.
Interesting fact: The royal position is conveyed by special behaviors, especially the poses that pandas are able to take. During the rest period, they often sit as if they were occupying a place of honor on the throne. They lean with their backs against a tree or other support, they can put their upper limb on a hill and cross their lower limbs at the same time.
There is no clear pattern of animal activity depending on the time of day. They can be active at any time of the day. Bamboo bears spend up to 10-12 hours a day looking for and eating food. With the onset of cold weather and a decrease in ambient temperature, they may sleep more than usual. However, this is not at all like a winter bear hibernation.
Animals prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle. It is unusual for them to exist in a group environment. Each animal has its own territory, which it very actively guards. Especially ardent defenders are females. Animals also do not create long and strong pairs.
Despite the fact that pandas are considered silent and secretive animals, they tend to communicate with each other through sounds. Babies who call their mother make sounds that look like whimpering or crying. When pandas greet their relatives, they emit something similar to the bleating of sheep. The anger and indignation of bamboo bears is expressed by a rumble. If the animal does not make any sounds, but at the same time shows a grin of teeth, it is better to keep a distance, as the panda is in anger and rage. In general, the animals are very friendly and not at all aggressive.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Pandas are known to be very caring, patient and reverent parents. Animals tend to form a pair only for the period of marriage. This period is seasonal and begins with the first days of spring. Each mature female can bring offspring twice a year and give birth to 1-2 cubs. The period when mating can lead to fertilization lasts only three or four days.
Interesting fact: After mating, the development of the embryo does not begin immediately. From the moment of mating to the beginning of embryo development, it can take from one to 3-4 months! In this way, nature protects the cubs, choosing more favorable climatic conditions for their birth.
The gestation period lasts about five months. Babies are born completely helpless – they see nothing, they have practically no hair. Bear cubs are born very small. The mass of one baby barely reaches 150 grams. The cubs are completely unadapted to life in the environment and are entirely dependent on their mother. The bear, no matter what she does, is always next to her cub. Newborns eat heavily in the first months of life. The number of feedings reaches 15 times a day. After two months, the cubs weigh four kilograms, and by six months they gain as many as ten.
At about a month, the cubs begin to see and gradually become covered with hair. When they reach the age of three months, they begin to walk. Toddlers begin to move independently and explore space only at the age of one. Equally as much they feed on mother's milk. They need about 6-8 more months to adapt to the environment. After that, they begin an isolated lifestyle.
If a female has two cubs, most often she chooses a stronger and more viable one and begins to patronize and feed him. The fate of the weakest is starvation. When breeding in captivity, people most often wean a rejected bear cub and periodically swap it with a stronger cub until it becomes independent.
The period of puberty in black and white bears occurs when they reach 5-7 years. The average life expectancy of bamboo bears in natural conditions — 15-17 years old. In captivity, they can live almost twice as long.
Natural enemies of giant pandas
When living in natural conditions, the panda has practically no enemies among animals. In rare exceptions, it can become the prey of a clouded leopard or red wolf. However, these animals are rare species today. To date, the bamboo bear is under protection and has the status of an endangered species. A sharp decline in these amazing animals is observed as a result of human activity.
Man remains the main and worst enemy of the panda. Bears are always very friendly to humans, sometimes they let them close to them. Man takes advantage of this by mercilessly killing animals for valuable fur, which is highly valued on the black market. Bamboo bears are often hunted for zoo use.
Species population and status
To date, the giant panda is listed in the international Red Book with the status of “endangered species”. The number of animals in natural conditions does not exceed two thousand individuals. The low birth rate, as well as poaching on a huge scale, contributed to the decline in numbers. The lack of a food source and the destruction of regions of the natural habitat of animals also contribute to the decline in their numbers. Bamboo has been growing for 20 years. After flowering, it dies. It turns out that entire plantations and forests of bamboo simply die at once.
Interesting fact: During the Cultural Revolution, there were no programs to preserve the number of animals and they were killed uncontrollably in huge numbers for the sake of valuable and very expensive fur.
At the beginning of the 21st century, humanity suddenly realized the enormous damage done to this species. Reserves and national parks are being created on the territory of the People's Republic of China, in which they try to create all conditions for the conservation of the species and its reproduction. However, everyone knows that bamboo bears are not distinguished by high sexual activity and fertility. In this regard, every baby born in captivity is another small victory for zoologists.
Giant Panda Protection
In order to protect this species of animals, they were listed in the international Red Book. In China, murder or mutilation carries severe penalties. In this country, the animal is considered a national treasure.
Interesting fact: In 1995, a local farmer killed an animal. For this crime, he received a life sentence.
At the moment, thanks to the creation of a large number of reserves and national parks, the number of bamboo bears is gradually increasing. There are such reserves in Shanghai, Taipei, San Diego, Atlanta, Memphis, and South Korea. Giant pandas also breed in captivity at the United States National Zoo. Due to an increase in the number of individuals in 2016, the status of an endangered species was changed to a vulnerable species.
The giant panda is one of the most interesting and unusual animals on earth. She is the hero of many cartoons, her image adorns a large number of different logos and emblems. The World Wildlife Fund is no exception.