Giant pandas are a unique species of bear that are native to China. Although they reside primarily in northern China, giant pandas have been transplanted to other areas of the world, where they live in zoos and preserves. They are between 2 and 3 feet tall from ground to shoulder and can be 6 feet long or longer. A large male can weigh up to 250 pounds, and it takes a great deal of food to sustain that much weight. The giant panda spends a large portion of its time grazing for food throughout its habitat, which is confined to a very small portion of China.
Giant pandas are located throughout several mountain ranges in China. Although they are sometimes found in the lowland areas, the highest concentration of giant pandas is found in the mountains, and they have been driven farther and farther upward due to deforestation and human development.
The giant panda has a bamboo habit. It is characteristic of the species, as bamboo is a primary staple of the panda diet. Any giant panda habitat must have a dense bamboo forest that can support the diet of a hungry bears. This can typically be found between 5,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level, where there is a great deal of rain and a constant mist. Due to these cooler temperatures, giant pandas are equipped with a thick black and white coat.
Loss of Habitat
The giant panda is on the list of endangered specials in the world. The major factor that is contributing to their low numbers is the rapid rate at which it is losing its habitat. Not just any ecosystem can support the eating habits of a giant panda, and as Chinese provinces become more developed, the giant panda loses more of the area where it can exist.
The earthquake in Sichuan, China, in May 2009, killed nearly 70,000 people and destroyed 23 percent of the giant panda habitat. According to CNN.com, the loss of habitat due to the earthquake may also impact giant panda population.
There are giant panda habitats that have been protected and are safe from human development. This species is revered for its beauty, and has natural habitats preserved around China. The Wolong Natural Reserve, founded in 1958, was the first of its kind. Although its practices were rudimentary when first implemented, laws have changed and other reserves have opened. Giant pandas are no longer confined to cages as they were when Wolong first opened, and are now allowed to live in their natural habitat, which is a protected area. Poaching is forbidden on and off of protected areas, as well.
The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries is a large panda habitat that has gained the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. This means the area is protected because it has cultural significance.
Survival Outside of Habitat
While the giant panda has lived in areas that are not the cool mountains they currently call home, this is where they thrive. There are about 2,000 giant pandas in existence, and they are confined to the areas in which their habitat still exists. The continued development of human communities in panda habitats continues to threaten the species.
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