An interesting fact about pandas is that they are the symbol of peace in China. Hundreds of years ago, tribes would raise a flag with a picture of panda on it during combat in order to call a truce or end a battle.
As few as 1,600 pandas exist in the wild as of 2015. Deforestation and the natural die-back of bamboo, their main food source, has led to declining populations. Roads and railroads isolate pandas and prevent them from mating. China has established reserves to help protect them that have grown in the last 30 years from eight in number to more than 60 as of 2015.
Pandas play a vital role in China’s bamboo forests by spreading seeds and allowing vegetation to grow and flourish. This vegetation helps to support other wildlife that inhabits these forests, such as the golden monkey and the crested ibis, which are also endangered. Experts believe that the name “panda” is derived from the Nepalese word “poonya,” which means bamboo-eating animal.
Pandas are excellent at climbing trees, despite their large size. They must consume 25 to 84 pounds of bamboo daily to sustain their large bulk. Using their large molar teeth, they crush tough bamboo stalks, which make up 90 percent of their diet. Pandas also eat musk deer fawn and small rodents.
Giant pandas don't mate until they are 20 years old. Females ovulate in the spring and only once during the year. The female draws males to her through scent and calls. She is only fertile for three days during her ovulation and usually produces cubs only every other year. Two cubs may be born, but usually only one survives. Newborn pandas are about the size of a stick of butter but grow to over 200 pounds.