Giant panda in Atlanta Zoo, USA (Rob – CC BY 2.0)
Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are found in the mountainous regions of the central Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu, typically at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 metres but up to 4,000 metres. They occupy broadleaf and coniferous rain forests with dense under-storeys of bamboo, which forms 99 percent of their diet.
Around the same size as the Asiatic black bear pandas are between 120 to 180 cm long. Males weigh between 90 kg to 160 kg and females 75 kg to 125 kg. The bears have black ears, eye patches, muzzles, legs and shoulders with the rest of their thick fur being white. The subspecies Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis (the Qinling panda) has fur which is dark brown and light brown rather than black and white.
Generally solitary and territorial, giant pandas do not make dens and do not hibernate but can climb and will take shelter in trees and rocks. During cold weather the bears will descend to lower elevations.
Mating occurs between March and May followed by a gestation period of between 95 to 160 days. Often two cubs are born but, in the wild, only one usually survives. Cubs usually remain with their mothers for around eighteen months but sometimes for up to three years.
The giant panda is classified as vulnerable with a life span in the wild of around 20 years.
Status: The giant panda is classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. It is listed in Appendix I of CITES and is protected in China where the government has implemented a “National Conservation Management Plan for the Giant Panda and its Habitat”.
Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Ursidae
Genus and species: Ailuropoda melanoleuca (David, 1869).
General Description: The bears have black ears, eye patches, muzzles, legs and shoulders with the rest of their thick fur being white. The subspecies Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis (the Qinling panda) has fur which is dark brown and light brown rather than black and white. Giant pandas have six “fingers” on their forepaws rather than the five of other bear species.
Size: 120 to 180 cm length, 70 to 80 cm height at shoulder.
Weight: Males 90 to 160 kg, females 75 to 125 kg.
Life Expectancy: In the wild around 20 years; up to 30 in captivity.
Also known as: In China as Da Xiong Mao, the “great bear cat;” also as the panda bear or bamboo bear.
Range: Found in the broadleaf and coniferous rainforests of the mountainous regions of the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu, typically at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 metres. The Qinling subspecies is found only in the Qinling Mountains, at altitudes of 1,300 to 3,300 metres.
GIANT PANDA SUBSPECIES
MORE INFORMATION ON THE GIANT PANDA
Conservation International and its partners created a Panda Survival Plan to engage Chinese communities in saving and protecting their signature species and lush landscapes. It requires the protection of all known panda habitat in China and the connection of key areas using at least 12 new conservation corridors.
Pandas International is exclusively devoted to the Giant Panda. It’s mission is to ensure the preservation and propagation of the endangered Giant Panda. By providing public awareness and education, support for research, habitat preservation and enhancement, and assistance to Giant Panda Centers. Pandas International is a non-profit organization based in Colorado in the USA and was founded by Suzanne Braden and Diane Rees in 2000 after a trip to the Wolong Panda Center in China.
WWF has been working closely with the Chinese government in the Qinling and Minshan Mountains, key landscapes for the panda, and the projects implemented in these areas to save the panda are working.
Page updated 15 February 2021