Among the shyest and rarest of wild animals, the bear-faced panda, with
its black and white coat and prominent black eye markings, is one of the
world's best-known mammals.
Pandas are solitary animals. They spend two-thirds of their day feeding and the remainder of the day resting. Extremely agile climbers, they usually climb only when they are in danger from predators such as brown bears, leopards, and wild dogs. They take refuge in the nearest tree until danger has passed. Pandas have no particular resting place; they simply lie down on the ground wherever they happen to be. Pandas live in cold, damp conditions. They have exceptionally dense waterproof coats that give protection against these conditions.
The mating season is the only time pandas come together. A single
cub is born five months after mating in a nest constructed
of bamboo. A panda rarely gives birth to twins; if she does,
the second cub is unlikely to survive.
The tiny newborn panda cub is blind; it is six inches long and weighs only three ounces. It stays with its mother for 18 months, until it is independent enough to establish its own territory.
Although the panda is classified as a carnivore, its diet consists almost
exclusively of the stems, leaves, and young shoots of various types of
bamboo. Because bamboo has a low nutritional value, the panda needs to
eat huge quantities - 25 to 45 pounds a day - to sustain itself. It also
eats eggs and some seasonal vegetation.
GIANT PANDA & MAN
At one time, the greatest threat to the giant panda's survival was man, who hunted it for its pelt. Today the principal cause of its decline is the erosion of its habitat due to crop cultivation or from natural causes such as die-back of bamboo. As its natural habitat becomes increasingly surrounded by human settlement, the panda can no longer migrate to unaffected areas. The Chinese people now support any measures necessary for the panda's protection. As a result, those caught hunting the animal face severe penalties. Special sanctuaries have been established in the panda's natural habitat with enough space for 500 to 600 animals. Scientists are studying the animal's habits and instituting a comprehensive conservation program. Zoos are also collaborating in the development of a captive breeding project.
DID YOU KNOW?
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