Pandas live in the wild in parts of Asia. They depend on dense bamboo forests for their daily dietary requirements. In zoos, pandas are often fed fish and fruit.
Although giant pandas can be seen living in zoos around the world, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) indicates that currently, they live in their natural environment in only 20 isolated areas of southwest China in Minshan and Qinling mountain ranges. Their habitat is not an expansive stretch of land but is comprised of separate bamboo patches where they are able to survive.
Adult pandas live a predominately solitary life except during a spring mating season. They live in a specific range and mark their home territory by urinating on trees and making claw marks on the bark of trees. While not especially territorial, females will not allow another female on their home turf. Males will sometimes fight over a female in heat. Pandas reach breeding maturity between ages four and 10 years. Adult females typically give birth every two years to one cub or sometimes twins.
Pandas are mostly vegetarian mammals with a diet consisting of bamboo shoots and leaves. Occasionally, pandas will eat rodents and other wild grasses if necessary. Giant pandas must have access to bamboo in the wild in order to survive since this is their main source of substance. Bamboo has a limited nutritional value, which requires a higher intake. Weighing from 220 to 350 pounds, adult pandas need to consume 26 to 40 pounds of bamboo shoots a day to absorb enough nutrients and calories. The pandas spend 10 to 16 hours of their day eating. Their sharp molar teeth, strong jaw muscles and claws enable them to eat the tough bamboo stalks easily.
The panda's natural habitat was once widespread, but has shrunk dramatically over time due to population growth and land development. As bamboo forests were cleared and eliminated, the panda's natural habitat and food source disappeared, which threatened the panda population. China's government and WWF recognized this and are engaging in ongoing conservation efforts by providing wildlife corridors to ensure the species' survival. The pandas are now considered a rare, highly endangered bear species.
These animals are bears but they don't hibernate like other bear species. Spending most of their time in higher elevations, they will move to lower ground in winter. They are excellent swimmers and tree climbers. Pandas live an average of 15 years in the wild and 35 years in captivity if dietary needs are met. They have very few predators once they are of adult size. Their biggest threat is humans and the loss of their natural habitat. Rapid environmental changes caused by the clearing of bamboo forests for development has made it extremely difficult for pandas to thrive.
Conservation efforts seem to be making successful strides in increasing the panda population. In the 1970s there were as few as 1,000 pandas living in their natural habitat. A 2014 census found more than 1,800 pandas now living in the wild. The last 30 years have seen a significant change in conservation focus and awareness with a gradual successful outcome. The black and white panda has become a recognized iconic image for global conservation.