Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why China? Part 5: Pandas

Pandas are an endangered species, native to China.  There are only about 2000 in the world and only about 49 live outside of China.  About 239 Pandas are in captivity in China and the rest live in natural habitat. 

The 49 or so Panda living outside of China are in 18 different zoos in 13 different countries.  China once gave two pandas to the United States as a gift.  Their new address was the Washington D.C. zoo.  China gave 23 Pandas to 9 different countries between 1958 and 1982 as an act of diplomacy. 

In 1984, the Chinese stopped giving Pandas as gifts and now they only loan Pandas for ten years.  The loan comes with a price tag of $10,000 to $1,000,000 per year.  Some of that money goes to conservation of Panda habitat and research.  Any offspring born to Pandas on loan also belong to

The name Panda means Big Bear Cat.  Pandas are scientifically classified as meat-eaters because of their digestive system, but live almost entirely on bamboo.   Adult Pandas eat an astonishing 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo each day. It takes a lot of time to get all that bamboo down.  They spend about 12 hours of every day eating.  That's right, 12 hours out of every 24 hours is spent in the dining room.

Pandas sometimes eat small birds and rodents.

An adult male can weigh as much as 350 pounds.  Females are smaller and can weigh anywhere from 150 to 275 pounds.   Baby Pandas are tiny, weighing less than 5 ounces .  Imagine a rounded cube of butter and you've got the idea, except that the butter is pink. Panda cubs are born blind, pink, and with no teeth.
In a few week the cub's skin turns gray in spots, the spots that will eventually become black.  The color pattern is set after about a month.  The first fur is very soft and coarsens over time.

Panda cubs crawl at around 3 months and start snacking on bamboo when they are 6 months old.  They depend mostly on their Mother’s milk for the first year.  On their first birthday, panda cubs weigh about 100 pounds.  They will live with their mother for up to two years.  In the wild, a mother Panda gives birth about once every two years.  Panda dads don’t stick around to help raise the kids.

Pandas don’t reproduce much in captivity. Apparently Pandas are shy about mating in public.  Panda
keepers have tried Viagra and Panda porn, but the most success has come from artificial insemination. 

Six Pandas live in the Beijing Zoo.  We were hoping to see at least one of them.  Our guide told us that on a good day we might see two or three.  To our delight we saw all six of the handsome creatures.  For some of us it was a first.

Six out of six.  I guess it was a good day. 

Linda Garner

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