The Giant Panda

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For centuries, the giant panda has been considered to be very special and was kept in captivity as the pet of ancient Chinese emperors. Since its introduction to the western world in 1869 by a French missionary who shipped back a pelt to the Museum of Natural History in Paris, it has become one of the most revered animals in the world. The giant panda is a large mammal, which has the same general size and shape of the American black bear and the Asiatic black bear. In general, adult giant pandas and have a length of 5 1/4 to 6 feet. The weight of an adult male giant panda is normally between 176 and 276 pounds with males typically weighing about 10% to 20% more than females. With few natural enemies other than man, the lifespan of giant pandas in the wild is thought to be twenty-five years or more. The giant panda itself appeared suddenly during the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene, perhaps no more than two to three million years ago. Panda fossils have been found in Burma, Vietnam, and particularly in early in eastern China, as far north as Beijing. The giant panda only exists at present in several small areas located in inland China. The habitat, suitable for the bamboo on which it survives, is a cold, damp coniferous forest. The elevation ranges from 4,000 to 11,000 feet high. In most of the areas in which they still roam wild, they must compete with farmers who farm the river valleys and the lower slopes of the mountains. It is estimated that there are somewhere around 700 and 1,000 giant pandas still alive in the wild. Because of their reliance on bamboo as their primary food, they will remain in significant danger unless their present habitat is expanded. The differing varieties of bamboo go through periodic die-offs as part of their renewal cycle. Without the ability to move to new, unaffected areas, starvation and death will certainly occur for the giant panda. Such die-offs of the bamboo also put the giant pandas in more direct contact with farmers...
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