The giant panda is a bear native to China and are considered a national treasure and regarded as the symbol of valiancy and peace. In the wild, giant pandas are only found in the remote, mountainous regions of central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. In these areas, there are cool, wet bamboo forests that are perfect for the giant panda’s needs. Giant pandas make their dens from hollowed-out logs or stumps of conifer trees found within the forest.
Giant pandas were once widespread across central, southern, and eastern China, and China’s neighboring countries of Myanmar and northern Vietnam. However, their habitat has shrunk to a few patches in western central China, due to China’s farming and logging practices. Currently, giant Pandas mainly live in the Qin Mountains in Shaanxi Province, and the Min Mountains in Sichuan and Gansu provinces.
Giant pandas are loners. They dislike being around other pandas so much that they have a heightened sense of smell that lets them know when another panda is nearby so it can be avoided. The Giant Pandas’ mating season is only 2-4 days during March to May. If missed, they will wait till the next year. One female panda will usually breed only one baby. As a result of this the lowered fertility generated the research on captive breeding. The China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda was established in 1983, jointly by Wolong National Reserve and WWF.
Giant pandas are endangered: only about 1,600 live in the wild. There are 50 panda reserves in China that protect around 45 percent of the giant panda’s habitat.
According to the census of 2014, there are only 1,864 giant pandas alive in the wild. It is one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world, thus the giant panda was selected and used as the symbol of the WWF since its formation in 1861.
Giant pandas are easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around their eyes, over the ears, and across their round body and are distinguished from other pandas by their large size and black-and-white coloring.
99% of giant pandas’ food is the tender stems, shoots, and leaves of bamboo. Because bamboo is low in nutrition, one giant panda needs to eat about 12 to 38 kg (26–84 lb) of bamboo a day, up to 40% of its own weight. Giant pandas spend as long as 14 hours eating a day. 1% of their food consists of other plants, even meats. Wild giant pandas eat grasses, wild fruits, insects, even small animals if they can catch them.
Many travelers on guided tours to China make their trips to China for the giant pandas. There are many places in China where you can see giant pandas but the best places are around Chengdu in Sichuan Province, “the giant pandas’ home town”. The place travelers are most likely to see a giant panda in the wild is Foping Nature Reserve in Shaanxi Province, but the reserve is currently closed to travelers.