National Giant Panda Day 2021
March 16th is the day to honour the adorable black and white Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). It is also a day to acknowledge National Giant Panda Day 2021 and raise awareness of the need to protect one of the world’s rarest mammals and a vulnerable species. Giant pandas are endemic to China and are China’s national symbol.
They live in small, isolated areas in the mountains of central China, in the Qinling, Minshan, Qionglai Shan, Liangshan, Daxiangling, and Xiaoxiang Mountains of Sichuan Shaanxi, and Gansu Provinces.
Pandas’ ideal habit is cool, wet, dense bamboo forests between 1500 – 3000 metres. Pandas enjoy a solitary life apart from mating or raising young cubs. They live in dens that are self-made in hollowed-out logs, stumps and trees.
China has implemented strict laws to reduce hunting and poaching of giant pandas, which has helped conserve them. However, poaching and killing still happen despite severe punishment of life imprisonment if caught. China has allocated increased protection for the giant panda habitats and is building more facilities and nature reserves to protect the giant pandas. Ongoing conservation work has improved the population of pandas in the wild, and numbers are slowly increasing. Due to the low giant panda population, they have now considered a protected species (CITES).
Chengdu Giant panda Research Base
Initially established in 1987 to care for six sick and hungry giant pandas, this non-profit research centre is now the largest artificial panda breeding centre globally.
Its innovative scientific research and management has successfully bred many giant pandas in captivity and managed disease control in giant pandas. Besides being a research centre, it is also an educational centre for tourists, universities and schools.
The giant panda reaches breeding maturity around 4 – 6 years of age. Mating occurs in springtime. Gestation is around 3 – 5 months, and females’ birth one or two cubs, but often only one cub will survive. Cubs weigh about 85 – 143 grams at birth, are pink in colour and are born blind. Their eyes do not open until they are around eight weeks old. Panda cubs are entirely helpless and are dependent on their mother until they are around two months old. They crawl at about three weeks of age and can walk at around 3-month-old. They rely on their mother’s milk until 6mth old when they start eating bamboo. By 12 months old, cubs are independent and can fend for themselves and leave their mothers to forge their way in life.
- Lifespan in the wild: 14 – 20 years
- Lifespan in captivity: 20 – 35 years
- Weight: 150+ kg
- Height: 1 metre tall to the shoulder
GIANT PANDA FACTS
- One of the shyest animals in the world
- Possesses an extra digit on their hands to aid in tearing bamboo and climbing
- Powerful jaws and teeth to crush bamboo
- Their wide paws with retractile claws help in gripping trees when climbing
- They don’t hibernate. They will take shelter in caves and hollow trees to escape from harsh weather.
- Giant pandas belong to the bear family
- They are one of the few animals whose body parts have not been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
- Around 99% of a panda’s diet is bamboo leaves and shoots
WHY ARE PANDAS ENDANGERED?
Deforestation and habitat encroachment – clearing forests to make way for agriculture, farming, homes for expanding human population, mining, building roads, railroads, hunting, trapping, logging, wood harvesting and dams
Pollution – ground and airborne
Climate change – droughts, increasing temperatures are causing pandas to move to higher elevations, further reducing their habitat size and population.
Tourism – disturbance to their habitat for tourism, recreational activities
Giant pandas are no longer on the endangered list. However, they are now considered ‘vulnerable to extinction. There are 500 – 1,000 individuals left in the wild. Therefore, protective measures must be implemented to address all the current threats to their extinction (IUCN).
Please enjoy this short giant panda video
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