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                          China Giant Panda FAQs 

There is an ancient species still living in the world now. Which has a bear-like feature, round cute face is the rare giant panda and it’s peculiar to China. Also, it is known as the “living fossil”.  Panda’s scientific name is Ailuropoda melanoleuca. It is a lovely baby having a white coat with black fur around his eyes, ears, muzzle, legs and shoulders. Except the distinctive black and white, giant panda are about 120 -180cm long from nose to trump, with a 10-20 cm tail. The adult panda can weight about 100-150 kg, with male 10% larger and 20% heavier than female. Panda’s head is massive. Otherwise they have broad, flat molars and an enlarge wrist bones, both of these features are adapted to vegetarian diet. Although, panda cost most of their time on the ground, they have the capacity of climbing threes as well. We can put this accomplishment to their toes. In fact panda have six toes, five of them have nail, the remainder one has no.

Sounds of giant pandas
Pandas vocalize extensively in social interactions. They "chirp" during mating and "honk" in distress. A "bleat," a twittering goat sound, is a friendly contact call. A "chomp," a rapid opening and closing of the mouth so the teeth audibly meet, is a mild defensive threat. A "bark" is used to scare an enemy. A squeal indicates submission or pain.

Historical record about giant panda can be found in the recordation from 4,000 rears ago to now. They are interesting and legendary. It firstly was noted in “Record of History” written by Sima Qian, a historian of Han dynasty. Giant panda in this period was tamed as a tool for emperor Huangdi defeating another emperor Yandi. In the long period of ancient China panda was considered as symbolize of brave and mighty. It was an animal that had more power than tiger and leopard because they are carnivore in the past. Once, it was one of quarries in Hanwu emperor’s Shanglin garden. But till 2,000 years ago, as the change of environment, panda began to eat bamboo and do not to hurt other animals. They marked peace and friendship. So in the battles, if one of the adversaries showed Zhouyu (panda) flag, it would mean they want to stop the war. As a diplomatic present, panda has been sent to Japanese emperor by emperor Wuze Tian during Tang dynasty. And in Ming dynasty the medical value of panda has been found. According to pharmacist Lishi Zhen’s research, the quilt made by panda’s fur can prevent coldness and wetness, as well as pestilence and vice; oil of panda can penetrate the skin to cure tubers; and its urine, drink with water can dissolve the metals eaten by mistakes. So we can see, giant panda played a important role in the Chinese history. At the same time, in 1970, when it was firstly introduced to western world by a French missionary, Pere David. There came about “giant panda mania”. After that, at the moment of first panda being to taken out of China by American woman, Ruth Harkness, the second “giant panda mania” swept the world again. Therefore panda is not the only treasure for China, but for all over the world.

The evolutionary history of animals is full with competition. But panda is the winner of this game.” living fossil” is an honored name for this reason. This kind of species can be traced back to about 8 million years ago. At the edge of tropical humid forest and around the Lufeng area in Yunan province of China, there lived ancestor of giant panda- the primal panda. The fossil indicates that panda evolved from the bear-like and carnivore animal. That time’s panda like a fat fox. The lineage evolved from the primal panda is Agriacros Goaci, whose habitats distributed in the humid forest around Hungary and France in Europe. But the primal panda became extinct in the late Miocene period.

But in central and south China, giant panda continued its evolution. One branch of it appeared in the early pleistocene about 3 million years ago. It like a dog and is only half size of today’s panda. The fossil of the panda in this time named Ailuropoda Micrta. Its teeth began to change.

Later on, giant panda was adapted to tropical area and bamboo wood. And they were bigger and bigger. In those remote ages, there living Smilodon the Stegodon Sinensis Owen, the Peking man and the Australopithecus, which formed the typical Pleistocene - Giant Panda - Stegodon Sinensis Owen fossil cluster.    

The flourished age of giant panda is the age of mid Pleistocene (500,000-700,000 years ago). The fossil showed the bulk of panda is 1/8 smaller than panda at present. Till the late of Pleistocene period, panda, however, is 1/8 bigger than present giant panda. At the same time, great environment changed. Large glacier areas appeared in Qinglin and those mountains to the south.

Till 18,000 years ago (after the quaternary glacier). Many animals became extinct. The amount of panda declined as northern panda disappeared, southern panda also shrank. But it existed on the ground till now.

The threatening situation for giant panda must be caught attention of us. General speaking, there are five main problems.

Firstly, the development of human’s civilization and panda’s natural enemies such as gold cat, leopard, jackal, wolf, yellow larynx sable seriously threatened giant panda’s natural habitats. Maybe panda is the winner of competition of survival, but now in some degree it’s in a very dangerous situation. They had to withdraw into the high mountains and deep valleys.

Contemporarily, due to the disappearing of the habitats, pandas are divided into about 20 isolated groups. There surely is necessarily inbreeding. Then, the loss of genetic diversity of the species will lead to the extinct of panda’s group.

Otherwise, as the main food of panda, bamboos will cyclically blossom. Then bamboos wither and pandas may die of starvation or sickness.

Lastly, because of the panda’s well known in foreign country, panda usually is a cash cow in peoples’ eyes. After the first time it was introduced to world, its situation is more and more hard. According to the statistics, there are over 200 foreigners come to China investigates, collection information, hunt even kill the panda. Continuance of domestic poaching is look like a disaster after another.

Breeding giant panda also has a long time history in China. In the past time, people raised panda for battle, amusement, diplomacies and so on. However in the modern time people breed giant panda because of forest cutting, poaching, bamboo “die back”, pollution and many other problems. All of these led to the reduction for total number of panda. But for manual breeding, the possibility of natural mating was quite low because the ovulation period of a female panda only lasts for one to three days although it may be in heat for a much longer period. In order to ensure a relatively high pregnancy ratio, the current method usually applies high technologies to define the ovulation period and uses repeated artificial fertilization. Maybe breeding and reproduction is a hard way with challenge, but it’s worthy to being done for the rare giant panda. Now let’s have a broad overview of the progress of giant panda’s breeding and reproduction.

      4,000 rears ago   appearing the breeding

      1953                   Chengdu zoo started to raise panda in the first time.

                                Two years later Beijing zoo run the same job.

       1963                  the first baby panda was born in zoo under a natural circumstance

       1978                  the first panda cub was born successfully under the situation of artificial fertilization  

       1980                  in Chengdu zoo, successfully using refrigerated sperm for artificial fertilization

       1990                  Chengdu Zoo led the way by raising a pair of twin panda cubs with manual breeding

       1992                  Beijing zoo solve the problem of low survival rate for young panda cubs have not been fed by     

                                mothers.                                  

At present, more and more people from different countries pay their concern to giant panda. So the panda’s future will be better.

How long is the gestation period of a panda?
Panda gestation length ranges from three to five months, or 90 to 160 days, with an average pregnancy lasting 135 days. This two-month variation in gestation occurs because the fertilized panda egg usually floats free in the mother's uterus before it implants and begins developing. Once the embryo is attached to the uterine wall, its development continues until a panda is born; newborn pandas are blind, very small and without almost any fur. In American black bears, the actual period of time the embryo is developing after implantation is about eight weeks. Pandas' actual development time is probably similar. Much of a panda's physical development occurs after birth.

Habitats for giant panda are distributed in many areas in China. Presently there are six mountain systems panda is still living in. They are southern side of Qinling Mountains, Mingshan Mountains, Qionglai Mountains, Major-Minor Xiangling Mountains and Liangshan Mountains. As the homeland of panda, Sichuan province has abundant panda recources. So it’s an ideal starting for meeting panda. And in Sichuan, Chengdu, Wolong, Wanglang, Fengtongzhai, and Bifengxia is the perfect place where could fulfill your dream.

The red panda, sometimes called the lesser panda, is a raccoon-sized mammal that lives in the same kind of habitat as giant pandas but over a larger area in Asia. Its fur is reddish and it eats bamboo. Scientists aren't sure what the red pandas' nearest relatives are. Some say raccoons and other species in the family Procyonidae; others say bears in the family Ursidae.


 
1. How many pandas are left in the world?
China currently has about 1,000 giant pandas in the wild, most of them living on the mountains around the Sichuan Basin, southwest China according to the Ministry of Forestry.

2. What is being done to save giant pandas?
Currently, the Chinese government in conjunction with the WWF are doing all that is possible to save the giant panda. This includes further research on how to manipulate bamboo to be sturdier and faster to recover after die-off cycles.

In addition the following is being done:

Conservation education and public awareness activities.
International breeding programs in zoos around the world.
Creation of 14 new panda reserves in China bringing the total of giant panda reserves to 26.
Corridors, forest links, between the isolated populations are being constructed to help increase the range in which the panda lives in order that the exchange of genetic material between wild populations will increase.
Continued research and artificial insemination of giant pandas in an to attempt to continually increase their numbers.

3. What are giant panda's enemies?
Man is the giant panda's most dangerous. The adult giant panda has very few natural enemies. One of the known enemies of the giant panda is the snow leopard, which may seize a baby panda that has wondered away from it's mother or a pack of wild dogs may also capture a wondering cub.
The continued population growth in China slowly and steadily depletes the bamboo forests and replaces them with cities or additional farming areas.
To a lesser degree the Bamboo Rat which burrows underground, eats the roots of the bamboo growth which obviously kills the plant, leaving one less plant for the giant panda to eat.

4. What is the life span of a giant panda?
The average life span of the giant panda, in the wild is about 15 years, but in captivity they have been known to live well into their 20's and rarely into their 30's.

5. How does that giant panda protect itself against its enemies?
Giant pandas signify aggression by lowering their heads and staring at their opponents. The giant panda is a generally a passive animal and not initiate to attack man or other animals. Giant pandas, however can become violent when provoked or surprised. Generally when hearing abnormal sounds the giant panda will escape the area immediately or they will climb the nearest tree. Should they become trapped the giant panda will cover their face with their paws often hiding its eye-patches and curl up. This gesture states that they are scared and/or angry. At close range, aggression is signaled by a swipe with a paw, or by a low-pitched growl or bark that will generally send an opponent (another giant panda) scampering up the nearest tree.

6. Why are giant pandas endangered?
Habitat encroachment and destruction are the greatest threats to the continued existence of the giant panda. This is mainly because of the demand for land and natural resources by China's one billion plus inhabitants. In addition giant pandas are also susceptible to poaching, or illegal killing, as their dense fur carries a high price in the black markets in the Far East.

7. How can I help save or assist in financing research for giant pandas?
You can adopt the giant panda in four places south China's Sichuan Province: the Wolong Natural Reserve, Fengtongzhai Natural Reserve, Chengdu Zoo, Chengdu Research and Breeding Base of Giant Panda.

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