Posted on March 16, 2018
Most of us think of the latter, and some of us might have this conversation about these popular animals:
"I am so excited! Our local zoo has a traveling exhibit of panda bears!"
"Haven't you heard? Pandas are not bears. They're closer to the raccoon family."
"Haven't YOU heard?? Pandas are now classified as a type of bear. And the red panda - which, it turns out, is not a close relative of the giant panda, isn't part of the bear family OR the raccoon family - it gets its own separate family."
The giant panda was endangered but has been upgraded to merely "vulnerable." Still, there may still be only around 2,000 or even fewer wild panda bears in the entire world!
You probably know that most bears are omnivores - creatures that eat both plants and animals. For example: honey and salmon.
Panda bears do sometimes eat meat - birds, rodents, carrion (already dead creatures) - and sometimes eat a variety of plants such as grasses and tubers and such. But mostly they eat bamboo.
Like...more than 99% of what they eat is bamboo!
The only place giant pandas live is some small bits of bamboo forest in the middle of China:
|The greenish tan part is where pandas USED to live...|
and the little red dots are where they live now!
Pandas are so closely linked with China, their images make appearances as mascots of Olympic games in Beijing or as special commemorative coins.
Here are a few interesting facts about panda bears:
Unlike most bears, pandas do not hibernate. Instead, when winter comes they generally move down to lower elevations for warmer weather.
Pandas are born unusually helpless, compared to most mammals. They are typically about 1/800th or even less of their mother's weight when newborn, and they are blind and toothless!
Pandas have cause panda-monium in several zoos that they have visited. And in some ways pandas have been diplomats for China, as gifts or loans from China to other nations helped to bridge the separation between nations created during World War II and the later communist take-over of China.
Check out some panda-cam footage:
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