The giant panda is native to the high-mountain bamboo forests of western China. As of 2014, the wild panda population is limited to the Quinling and the Minshan mountain ranges, according to WWF Global. While their habitat was once much more widespread, including much of southern and eastern China, Myanmar and northern Vietnam, the growth of the human population restricts giant pandas to approximately 20 isolated areas.
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park indicates continuing to cut down bamboo forest in China has the potential to eliminate all remaining natural habitat for the giant panda. The giant panda population in zoos around the world serves as insurance against their extinction, regardless of what happens in their native habitat.
The giant panda's diet consists almost entirely of bamboo. A panda spends 12 hours daily eating. The panda grasps the stalks using their fingers and their unique wristbone. They peel the bamboo's tough outer layer using their teeth and consume the soft inner tissue. In addition to this soft tissue, they also consume the leaves of the plant.
It took many years for scientists to determine if pandas were bears or raccoons. According to the San Diego Zoo, they are bears, accounting for similarities in looks, gait and climbing.