Giant pandas are found mostly in thick bamboo and coniferous forests (evergreens with seed cones) at 8,500 to 11,500 feet in elevation. They are generally solitary animals that spend most of their days feeding. However, they do communicate with each other once in a while through scent markings, calls and occasional meetings.
Unlike other bears, giant pandas do not hibernate. In the winter, they move to lower elevations to keep warm, while traveling to higher elevations in the summer to stay cool. They can be active at any time of the day or night.
Pandas do not have permanent homes but sleep at the bottom of trees under stumps and rock ledges.
Pandas eat bamboo. Since giant pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore, they do not have the ability to digest cellulose (plant matter) efficiently and thus derive little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. So, the average giant panda has to eat as much as 20 to 45 lbs (9-20 kg) of bamboo shoots a day. On occasion, giant pandas are also known to eat flowers, vines, tufted grasses, green corn, honey and rodents.
Giant Pandas are high in the food chain because of two reasons: loss of habitat and specialized diet. I will explain: these bears are found only in a remote and high level area in China near Tibet; they feed on some 30 species of bamboo plants only found in that region. Because of these habits they are amongst the endangered species of animals left on Earth.
Climate Change and Other Threats
The most serious threat to the panda is loss of habitat. Already confined to small remote areas in the mountains of China, much of their natural lowland habitat has been destroyed by farmers, development and forest clearing, forcing them further upland and reducing and fragmenting their habitat. This fragmentation of habitat is detrimental to the panda’s ability to find food.
Because they can consume up to 45 pounds of bamboo in a day, it is sometimes necessary for pandas to travel to a new location once the bamboo supply of an area is depleted. However, the fragmentation of their range by humans can make finding new food difficult. Any climate changes that alter the natural range of bamboo species will make these remaining islands of habitat even more precarious.
Support captive breeding programs in the United States and around the world. With low birth rates and reproduction issues, breeding in captivity is an important aspect of panda survival. Visit zoos that have captive pandas.
Donate money or time to an organization dedicated to protecting endangered pandas. Although wild pandas are only found in China, conservation organizations are found around the globe. Choose to donate money online or offer to volunteer if the organization is located close to you.
Sponsor or adopt a panda. Zoos and other organizations often support their efforts by having individuals “adopt” or sponsor a particular animal. With sponsorship, you might receive pictures and information about your specific adoptee. This makes a great gift for children or individuals who like pandas.
Grow bamboo. Some zoos in the United States accept bamboo donations from individuals. Contact a zoo with a panda near you to see if they have such a program and what the requirements are.
Learn about the Chinese government’s efforts to maintain panda habitat and save endangered pandas. Government efforts include turning land back into forest, promoting high yield crops instead of logging and promoting population control.
Avoid products that are made from animals who share habitats with pandas. Poachers and hunters of other species threaten pandas through snares, traps and other hunting methods.
Buy products from companies that donate money to panda conservation. Many conservation organizations sell panda related materials or provide information about companies that sponsor panda survival.