6 facts about pandas that will make your day
A tour of China presents a seemingly endless number of activities and possibilities. There are unique architecture and historic landmarks to explore, delicious food and traditional music to take in, and many different cities and regions to visit.
Above all else, pandas are one of the most iconic aspects of Chinese culture. Once found throughout southern China, pandas are now quite endangered and only reside in the forested mountains in the center of the country or at wildlife centers and preserves specially dedicated to protecting these wonderful animals. At the Panda Research Center in Chengdu, researchers work hard to breed the bears, and visitors are given an unprecedented opportunity to see these miraculous creatures up-close and personal.
For anyone especially excited about the prospect of meeting pandas, here are a few cute facts to hold onto until your make the trip:
1. Pandas are quite sleepy
Pandas spend a big portion of their days snoozing. In fact, when they’re not foraging for their favorite food – bamboo – most pandas spend their days sleeping or lying around. For that reason, a panda may spend up to 12 hours a day resting or napping.
2. A male baby panda is a bit of a mama’s boy
Females only ovulate once a year, and pandas’ relaxed attitude toward mating is one of the reasons the animals are endangered and why breeding programs aren’t always successful. When a female does get pregnant, she usually gives birth to one or two babies.
Pandas also age relatively slowly compared to other wild animals. Although cubs may leave the protection of their mother after two years, it takes female pandas roughly five years to reach adulthood. Male cubs, on the other hand, take up to seven years before they are considered mature animals.
3. Pandas are surprisingly social
For many years scientists believed pandas were strictly solitary creatures, and only came together to breed. New research has shown that these animals may actually spend time together throughout the year, using vocalizations and pheromones to communicate.
At the Panda Research Center and other such facilities, pandas are kept together and spend time resting or even playing with one another.
4. Babies are shockingly little
At birth a panda cub is completely helpless, and weigh just a few ounces. Roughly the size of a stick of butter, the pink, hairless cub is approximately 900 hundred times smaller than an adult bear. Outside of marsupials like kangaroos or koalas, a newborn panda is the smallest mammal relative to adults at birth.
Baby pandas may be immobile for several months after birth, and will take many weeks before they leave the safety of the den. Having said that, baby pandas grow incredibly fast, and in one year an individual may go from weighing just a three or four ounces to up to 100 pounds. Fully grown pandas weight north of 300 pounds.
5. Red pandas aren’t quite pandas
The black and white bears that roam the forests of central China are known as giant pandas, and for many years, scientists believed the tree-dwelling animal known as red pandas were close relatives. With genetic testing and new research however, this has been disproved.
Pandas are in fact closely related to bears and seals, while red pandas are likely distant relatives of skunks and raccoons. In reality, it seems red pandas have followed a distinct genetic lineage for thousands of years.
6. They eat sitting down
Pandas seem to know exactly how to relax, and as they are often seen sitting while munching on a meal of bamboo. The hardy grass makes up to 99 percent of the bears’ diet, although they have been known to eat birds or small mammals.
Unfortunately, bamboo is not particularly nutritional, which is why pandas spend hours on end eating throughout the day. A single bear may eat 40 pounds or more each day. For that reason, it may make most sense for a panda to grab some bamboo, find a relaxing spot to sit down and chew on some of the green stuff.