The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), also known as the panda bear, is a bear-like mammal that lives in bamboo forests in the mountains of central China.
Its striking black and white coat combined with its massive body and round face gives it a captivating appearance that attracts people all over the world.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, there are currently less than 1,900 Giant Pandas alive.
It is a very interesting animal.
Large males can reach 1.8 meters (6 ft) in length and weigh over 100 kg (220 lb); females tend to be smaller.
They willingly climb trees, walk with a somewhat “duck” gait, deftly handle food thanks to the enlarged wrist bone, which acts a bit like a thumb.
As many as 16 out of 24 hours, the giant panda spends eating, and excreting feces up to 50 times a day due to getting rid of the undigested cellulose contained in the eaten bamboo leaves from the body.
The species cannot naturally survive outside of bamboo forests, although in captivity it has been subsisted on cereals, milk, and garden fruits and vegetables.
The Giant Panda marks its territory with a scent gland located just below its tail.
Giant Pandas tend to be loners. They show social activity only in the case of estrus and it is short, because it lasts from 1 to 3 days.
Gestation lasts an average of 135 days (with a range of 90–184 days), but due to the short growth phase, the term fetus weighs only about 112 grams (4 ounces) on average.
Nearly half of the 133 captive births recorded before 1998 are twins, but Panda Mothers are typically unable to care for more than one infant.
Weaning from mom occurs at the age of 18–24 months.
Giant Pandas can live over 30 years in captivity, but life expectancy in the wild is estimated at around 20 years.
The closest relatives of the giant panda are bears, and many of their behavioral and reproductive characteristics are consistent with this affiliation.
Since the 1990s, China has greatly expanded conservation efforts and now considers the Giant Panda a national treasure. The reserve system has been expanded from 14 to over 40 sites and a bamboo forest habitat restoration program has been implemented.
Nevertheless, the Giant Panda is recognized by the IUCN as an endangered species.
A Giant Panda can be symbolically adopted by actively contributing to the protection of this species.
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