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Location and Habitat

At one time, giant pandas were found across many parts of southern China. Due to human activity, giant pandas can now only be found in a few, fragmented mountain ranges in central and southern-central China. The mountain ranges that pandas inhabit are damp and cold. They are heavily forested with a variety of trees and bamboo plants.


Diet

Giant pandas are unique because their diets consist almost purely of plants and vegetation, but they digest food like carnivores. Bamboo shoots make up the largest portion of pandas' diets, and they need to eat large amounts of it daily (over 20 pounds) to obtain the nutrients they need. Pandas will also sometimes eat other plants, fruits, insects or small mammals.

Much of giant pandas' water needs are also obtained from the bamboo plants that they eat.


Size and Description

For a long time, it was unknown whether giant pandas were more closely related to bears or raccoons, or if they belonged in another group altogether. Recently, scientists have been able to confirm that giant pandas are more closely related to bears. Giant pandas will reach 4 - 6 feet in length, and will be approximately 2 - 3 feet in height at the shoulder when standing on all four legs. They weigh between 200 and 300 pounds, with males generally weighing more than females. Giant pandas are considerably smaller than many brown bears that inhabit North America and polar bears that live in the arctic. Giant pandas have a famously unique appearance. White fur covers much of their bodies, and black fur covers their arms, legs, ears, and patches that surround their eyes. They have four claws and an elongated wristbone that almost acts as a thumb when grabbing bamboo shoots to eat.


Reproduction

Gestation periods of female pandas usually last from 3.5 - 5 months. They will usually give birth to one or two cubs. At birth, giant panda cubs are very small and helpless and require a lot of attention from their mothers.


Other Facts

A lot of symbolism in the Chinese culture is related to giant pandas. Most notably, they are symbols of peace.

Like many other endangered animals, giant pandas are beginning to make a slow recovery due to reserves created by the Chinese government and laws restricting hunting of the animals. They will still require much attention in future years to help keep them from going extinct.

 
  Jianqing Gu | Dreamstime.com
  Classification
  Kingdom: Phylum: Class: Order: Family: Genus: Species: Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Ailuridae Ailurus fulgens
         
           
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