The panda is so popular with humans that it has become the face of many businesses and organisations alike; it is the icon of food delivery company Food Panda and even the appointed official mascot of Beijing Olympic Games. Even DreamWorks Animation has created a smash hit movie KungFu Panda with the adorable black-and-white animal as its shining star.
The verdict is out: Everyone loves pandas!
From their weight at birth, the fact that they are no longer endangered to how much they can eat, here are 8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pandas.
#1 THEY ARE NO LONGER ENDANGERED
The panda has a naturally slow reproductive rate as the female can only successfully raise five to eight cubs in her lifetime at best. This hinders the population from recovering from endangerment.
However, in light of the increase in pandas in the wild – 17% increase in the last 10 years – following decades of rescue efforts, the panda has since been promoted from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’.
#2 THEY ARE BORN BLIND
Cubs are pink, hairless and blind. They do not see until they are six to eight weeks old. Note that they are also immobile for approximately three months. Little pandas are nursed for 18 months before they leave their mothers to live on their own.
#3 THEIR WEIGHT AT BIRTH
A panda weighs between 80g to 140g at birth – about the size of a stick of butter – and is almost 10,000 times smaller than its mother! The vast disparity makes the panda baby the smallest mammal newborn relative to its mother’s size.
#4 HOW THEY SPEND THEIR HOURS
Considering how much it eats, the panda actually spends approximately 14 hours a day foraging and chomping down on food. The bulk of its remaining time is unsurprisingly spent sleeping and napping – typically two to four hours at a time and also defecates in its sleep.
#5 THEY DON’T JUST EAT BAMBOO
Contrary to popular belief, the panda does eat other things other than just bamboo. While the bamboo plant comprises the largest portion of its dietary intake, a panda might still eat flowers, fish, roots, or even honey when available.
#6 BUT THEY CAN EAT 13KG WORTH OF BAMBOO
Much of a panda’s diet is passed as waste as its digestive system is more similar to a carnivore’s than a herbivore’s. To compensate for its consumption inefficiencies, the panda has to devour relatively large volumes of food (anywhere between 10 – 18 kg of bamboo) to get its daily dose of nutrients.
#7 HOW THEY EAT
A panda usually eats while sitting upright, grasping bamboo stems with its paws. It is well equipped to crush the tough and fibrous shoots with its powerful jaws.
#8 THEY DO NOT HIBERNATE
While the panda has a body typical of bears, they are unlike their cousins and do not hibernate. These animals instead migrate to warmer regions in the mountains to avoid harsh winter climates.