The Panda Bear Essay, Research Paper
The Panda Bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is a probably the most famous endangered animal in the world. The Panda only lives in six small areas located in China. In China they call the Panda “Da xiong mao”, which means Giant Cat Bear. The Panda was believed to have magical powers that could ward off natural disasters and evil spirits. Writings about the Pandas can be traced back as many as 3,000 years. They were even kept as pets by Chinese Emperors. A French missionary first introduced the Panda to the Western world in 1869 when he sent a pelt to a Museum on Natural History in Paris France.
The sharply contrasting black and white coloration, added to the stocky characteristic shape of a bear, makes the giant panda one of the most recognizable animals in the world. The head, top of the neck and rump are white, while small patches of fur around the eyes, the ears, shoulders, front legs, and rear legs are black. When compared with other bears, the head of the giant panda is large in relation to its body. The front paw has six digits as a result of the radial sesamoid, the wrist bone, becoming extended to form an awkward, but functional, opposable thumb.
Adult giant pandas range in body length from about 160 to 190 centimeters (64 to 76 inches). Males are slightly longer than females, have stronger forelegs, and are 10 to 20 percent heavier. In the wild males weigh from 85 to 125 kilograms (190 to 275 pounds), while females range between 70 and 100 kilograms (155 to 220 pounds). At birth, cubs weigh only 85 to 140 grams (3 to 5 ounces).
Pandas reach sexual maturity at about four-and-a-half to six-and-a-half years of age and they mate during the spring, from March to May. Females are in estrus for one to three weeks, but peak receptiveness lasts for only a few days. Litters of one, two, or occasionally three cubs are born in August or September, usually in a hollow tree or cave. Normally, only one cub is raised. Although cubs are usually weaned at about nine months of age, they remain with their mothers for up to 18 months.
Most scientists classify giant pandas as bears. Until recently, giant pandas were grouped with raccoons and lesser pandas (i.e., the Procyonidae (raccoon) family). This decision was based primarily on physiological evidence. In the late 1980’s, DNA/serological studies clearly established that giant pandas are clearly more closely related to bears than raccoons. Some scientists want to place giant pandas in their own grouping but for most bear researchers, this does not seem warranted.
Panda Bears eat over fifteen different kinds of Bamboo. Because of an inefficient intestinal system the Panda must feed for 12 to 16 hours a day, they can consume 22 to 40 pounds of Bamboo each day. When they eat fresh Bamboo shoots they eat about 84 pounds every day.
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. The differing varieties of bamboo go through periodic die-offs as part of their renewal cycle. Without the ability to move into new areas that have not been affected many Pandas will starve to death. When die-offs occur the bears that do try to find a new place to feed often run into farmers and poachers.
It is estimated that there are only about 700 and 1,000 giant pandas still alive in the wild. Because they rely on bamboo as their main food they will remain in danger unless their habitat is expanded.
Except for females accompanied by cubs, giant pandas live a solitary existence. During the breeding season, several males may compete for access to a female. Home ranges of females are usually mutually exclusive, although they overlap occasionally, while the home range of each male may overlap those of several females. Pandas communicate by rubbing an acetic- smelling substance-secreted by glands surrounding the anogenital area-onto tree trunks and stones. They also scratch trees. Most territorial marking is thought to be done by males. Pandas are quite vocal and eleven distinct calls have been identified in the wild, although the function of each is not understood. In captivity, females vocalize during estrus as well.
Giant pandas are one of only four bear species who do not hibernate. The reasons for this are twofold. First, the natural food source of these bears is not sufficiently high in calories and protein to allow them to put on sufficient fat resources to last a lengthy period of hibernation. Second, they live in a habitat zone where food is available on a year round basis.
Pandas are very peaceful and majestic animals. The best way to preserve these species is to preserve their habitats and stop poachers. Poachers can sell a panda pelt for as much as $100,000. Laws agianst poaching need to be stricter and better enforces. Panda are very majestics animals and if steps are taken to consevere these animals the can be around for future generations to enjoy.