ï»¿Giant Panda IUCN Status Category: Endangered
Ailuropoda melanoleuca (David, 1869) CITES Appendix: I
Giant pandas are robust members of the bear family with a distinctive black and white coat. Their head and body length is 120 to 190 cm, and adults weigh 85 to 125 kg. Specialized features include broad, flat molars modified for crushing, and an enlarged wristbone functioning as an opposable thumb â€” both adaptations for eating bamboo. The giant pandaâ€™s diet consists almost entirely of the leaves, stems and shoots of various bamboo species; although they occasionally eat meat. A giant panda may consume 12 to 18 kg of bamboo a day to meet its energy requirements. ...view middle of the document...
Panda fossils have also been found in northern Myanmar (Burma) and northern Vietnam. The giant panda's range has since contracted through climatic change, and in recent centuries, increasing human settlement. The species is now restricted to six isolated mountain ranges along the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau: Qinling in Shaanxi Province, Minshan in Gansu and Sichuan Provinces, and Qionglai, Xiangling and Liangshan in Sichuan Province. The remaining area of suitable habitat totals around 13,000km.2 Because most valleys are inhabited by people, many giant panda populations are isolated in narrow belts of bamboo, sometimes no more than 1,000-1,200 m wide. Panda habitat is continuing to disappear as clearance for agriculture and logging pushes ever higher up the mountain slopes.
Range State: China
Because giant pandas live in bamboo thickets on steep mountain slopes, counting them is difficult. Surveys in the 1980s gave an estimate of around 1,000 individuals in the wild, but that may have been an underestimate. There are now thought to be approximately 600 remaining, but a new survey started in 1999 should give a more accurate figure. So far, the Chinese government has established 33 panda reserves, which should give protection to about 60% of the giant panda populations.
Major population: On present evidence the greatest number of giant pandas occur in the Minshan Mountains, while the Qinling Mountains have the highest population density.
The main threats to giant pandas are habitat loss and fragmentation, and poaching. Their habitat has been severely reduced by logging and forest clearance for agricultural settlement. Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis and surveys done in the 1970s and 1980s revealed that the area occupied by giant pandas had been reduced from more than 29,500km2 to only about 13,000km2. Because individual giant panda populations in these fragmented forests are small, most may not be viable in the long term, and inbreeding in small populations is a potential problem. The Chinese government instigated a ban on commercial logging in natural forests in the southwest of the country in 1998, which is welcome news for giant pandas outside the reserves.
Pandas have a low reproductive rate and populations may take a long time to recover if individuals are killed. Although poachers are given severe penalties, some illegal hunting continues, although it is not as bad as it was in the 1980s. Many hunters set snares and traps for deer and other animals, especially musk deer, and incidental giant panda deaths have been documented.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, many giant pandas died in the Minshan and Qionglai Mountains following the flowering and dieâ€‘back of bamboo over wide areas. Bamboo dieâ€‘back is a natural phenomenon, occurring every 15â€‘120 years according to the species. Once the bamboo dies it can take a year to regenerate from seed and it can take...