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Did you know that panda bears have roamed our Earth for over 3 million years? These 'living fossils' have outlived, the now extinct, stegodon (a big tusked elephant), and the Chinese rhinoceros.
There are two panda species, the giant panda and smaller red panda. What makes the giant panda stand out is its distinct coloring of black and white. It has black fur on its ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, and shoulders. The rest of their coat is white. While pandas may look cute, when provoked they will defend themselves and their offspring.
Giant pandas are listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Animals. Unfortunately, there are only about 1,600 left in the wild. To help increase the population, zoos around the world include them in their breeding centers. More than 160 pandas have a home in these zoos.
Panda bear facts
Good at climbing trees
Live 20 years in the wild, 35 years in zoos
Forepaws have an extra "thumb"
Has the largest molar teeth of any of the carnivores
Farming and forest clearing are two reasons why pandas no longer live in the lowland areas of China. Currently, most of the giant pandas live in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanzi, and Gansu provinces.
The panda diet is almost exclusively bamboo. Other grasses, the odd rodent, or musk deer fawn make up the rest of their diet. Those living in zoos are fed meals that include: apples; bamboo; carrots; rice gruel; a special high-fiber biscuit; sugar cane; and sweet potatoes.
An interesting fact about the panda bear is that it does not hibernate. Due to their diet, they can not store enough food to survive hibernation. Bamboo just does not provide enough fat, even though they spend often 14 hours a day eating it!
The giant panda is the World Wildlife Federation's symbol. This group continues its conservation efforts to increase the number of giant pandas so the world can enjoy watching them.
Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff