The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, literally meaning "cat-foot black-and-white") is a mammal native to central-western and south western China. The Giant Panda is a member of the Ursidae (bear) family. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though belonging to the order Carnivora, the Giant Panda has a diet which is 99% bamboo. The Giant Panda may eat other foods such as honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, and bananas when available.
The Giant Panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan, but also in the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Due to farming, forest clearing, and other development, the Giant Panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived.
The Giant Panda is a conservation reliant endangered species. According to the latest report, China has 239 Giant Pandas in captivity and another 27 living outside the country. It also estimated that around 1,590 pandas are currently living in the wild. However, a 2006 study, via DNA analysis, estimated that there might be as many as 2,000 to 3,000 Giant Pandas in the wild. Though reports show that the numbers of wild pandas are on the rise, the International Union for Conservation of Naturebelieves there is not enough certainty to remove the Giant Panda from the endangered animal list.
While thedragonhas historically served asChina'snational emblem, in recent decades the Giant Panda has also served as an emblem for thecountry. Its image appears on a large number of modern Chinese commemorativesilver,gold, andplatinumcoins. Though the Giant Panda is often assumed to be docile, it has been known to attack humans, presumably out of irritation rather than predatory behavior.
The Giant Panda has a black-and-white coat. Adults measure around 1.5 m long and around 75 cm tall at the shoulder. Males are 10–20% larger than females. Males can weigh up to 150 kg (330 pounds). Females are generally smaller than males, and can occasionally weigh up to 125 kg (275 pounds). The Giant Panda lives in mountainous regions, such as Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi
The Giant Panda has a body shape typical of bears. It has black fur on its ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, and shoulders. The rest of the animal's coat is white. Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are black and white, some speculate that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage into its shade-dappled snowy and rocky surroundings. The Giant Panda's thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. The Giant Panda has large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles for crushing tough bamboo.
The Giant Panda's paw has a "thumb" and five fingers; the "thumb" is actually a modified sesamoid bone, which helps the Giant Panda to hold bamboo while eating. Stephen Jay Gould used this example in his book of essays concerned with evolution and biology, The Panda's Thumb.
The Giant Panda has the second longest tail in the bear family, with one that is 4–6 inches (150 mm) long. The longest belongs to the Sloth Bear The Giant Panda can usually live to be 25–30 years old in captivity.