The giant panda, infamously known for their black markings and playful behavior, is among one of the most endangered species in the world. Pandas in the wild have few natural enemies; their species decline is mostly due to overpopulation of humans who continue to take up land space and lack of food during the intervals of bamboo blossom season. This paper will discuss the pandas’ ecology, subdivided into categories of their diet, habitat and behavior, how humans first developed a relationship with the pandas, leading into the reasons that caused the pandas to become enlisted under the endangered species list, and conclude with human developments that help the giant pandas survive.
Pandas have similar appearances to that of a bear and are known to originate from China. The pandas distinctiveness from ordinary bears are due to their predominate white fur body with black fur surrounding their eyes, ears, legs and shoulders (3, pg 1). An average panda can reach the length of three to four feet and weigh between 185 to 245 pounds (3, pg 1).
The pandas’ diet is mainly dependent on bamboo and other vegetations, although they are taxonomically labeled as carnivores, as most bears are. Pandas are labeled as carnivores because they have the digestive system of a carnivore, and that system is not able to digestive or process the cellulose contained in their diet adequately. Since they cannot regularly digest the food they consume, pandas constantly eat, sometimes as much as eighty-three pounds of bamboo in one day (3, pg 1). Depending on one main food source can be dangerous, especially since the a type of bamboo called arrow bamboo, located in central China, undergoes a blossoming period once every forty-five to fifty years, which became a problem in 1983 (4, pg 2). During a blossoming period, the arrow bamboo in that location transforms into flower to scatter their seeds, and then dies (2, pg 2). The bamboo supply will become adequate for the pandas in that area in a few years, however there are possibilities of starvation during those intervals of re-growth of the bamboo. Pandas in those predicaments have adapted to consuming foods other than plants, “such as honey, eggs, fish, and yams” (2, pg 2).
Since pandas depend mostly on bamboo as a food resource, their naturally preferred environment is the thick bamboo forest of located in various regions of China. Before their population began diminishing, pandas were found throughout the southern and eastern parts of China, as well as in Myanmar and Vietnam (3, pg 1). Due to constant human growth, the panda population has been limited to a mere 23,049 km2 (14,000 square miles) across the mountain ranges in southwestern China, data based on the 2004 Panda Survey (8, pg 2).
Pandas are rarely seen in their innate behavior in nature because they are not usually easy to find in the thick bamboo forests. Pandas are generally shy creatures that prefer an individualistic lifestyle, aside from mating season, and spend most of their days “feeding, resting and seeking food,” (3, pg 1), usually devoting about fourteen hours a day feeding (3, pg 4). Unlike the majority of the bear family, pandas do not hibernate because their diet does not contain enough protein to enable them to hibernate (3, pg 4). Also unlike most bears, Pandas are excellent tree climbers and can swim well (3, pg 4). A unique quality of the pandas is that they tend to “stand on their head and forelegs to place scent high up on tree trunks” (3, pg 4). In wild, the panda’s life span is estimated to range from ten to fifteen years. However, in captivity, the pandas have the chance to double their life span up to almost thirty years, due to human assistance and secured environments with plenty of food sources.
The pandas’ first interaction with humans began in ancient China with highly respected individuals, which depicted pandas as “noble creatures” (2). Two accounts of such interactions was when a panda...
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