The giant panda is a mammal classified in the bear family, native to central and southern China. The giant panda has a very distinctive black-and-white coat. Males can weigh up to 253 pounds. Females are generally smaller than males, and can occasionally weigh up to 220 pounds, They stand between two and three feet tall at the shoulder (on all four legs), and reach four to six feet long.
Babies are blind at birth, and their bodies are pink with a sparse covering of white hair. After four months, the babies emerge from a den with their black and white fur pattern. Giant pandas are cubs until they are about two years old. Like all bears, they start to explore the world outside the den once they are strong enough to follow their mother's lead. Giant panda mothers spend most of the time foraging for bamboo shoots, stems and tender leaves.
A Day in the Life
A wild panda spends much of its day resting, feeding, and seeking food. Unlike other bears from temperate climates, giant pandas do not hibernate. Until recently, scientists thought giant pandas spent most of their lives alone, with males and females meeting only during the breeding season.
Bamboo is the giant panda's favorite food. Adult giant pandas will sit and eat bamboo for more than half of every day. The panda's diet is 98% bamboo, but they may eat other foods such as honey, eggs, fish, and yams.
Giant pandas are an endangered species, threatened by continued habitat loss and by a very low birthrate, both in the wild and in captivity. Killing a panda was punishable in China by death until a 1997 law changed the penalty to 20 years imprisonment. An estimated 1,600 pandas live in the wild and some 221 were reported to live in captivity at the end of 2006 in China, with twenty pandas living outside of China.
In 1936, clothing designer Ruth Harkness brought the first live giant panda, names Su-Lin, out of China and to the West. Su-Lin lived at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo and was a celebrity until he died in 1938.
Pandas make a sound similar to the sound a lamb or a goat kid would make. It's a friendly sound, a greeting. They don't roar, the way you think of a brown bear roaring. They sometimes huff, bark, or growl. Young cubs croak and squeal.