â€œ Ailuropoda melanoleucaâ€ is the scientific name of giant panda which means â€œblack and white cat-footed animal.â€ They have thick, wooly coats that insulate their bodies from the cold. They are also charachterised by subtle tails.Adults are four to six feet long weighing up to three hundred and fifty pounds. .
Red pandas look different than giant pandas they resemble raccoons with auburn fur. They weigh only twelve to twenty pounds.
Pandas are mainly found in bamboo forests located in the mountains of western China, where they live almost entirely on bamboo as a source of food.
Giant pandas are currently classified on International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List as an endangered species.
Why Giant Pandas are endangered
1) Habitat Loss.
Giant panda natural habitats are in mountains that are dominated by large fir trees. These habitats are reducing as population increases at a very high rate, people are cutting down bamboo trees to clear land for constructing buildings,setting up industries and farming. Roads and railways are increasingly cutting through the forest, which isolates panda populations and prevents them from breeding. Loss and fragmentation of their habitat is a major threat to their existence.
Giant pandas were subject to excessive poaching, according to a 2006 survey, there were 3,000 pandas left in the wild. About one thousand six hundred pandas exist in the wild now.
3) Selective Mating
Giant Pandas are very particular about their mates. The females are only receptive for mating for a few days. When she is not able to find any ready mate during this period then the reproductive opportunity is lost. Giant pandas reach the maturity age after five or seven years, females concieve one or two cubs which hardly survive in the wild. The cubs weigh four to eight ounces which also makes their survival difficult.
4) Insufficient Lowland Forests
Many lowland forests that were once inhabited by bamboo are undergoing cultivation for agricultural crops. Giant pandas therefore have limited diet which is a major threat to their survival. Their habitat is also degraded by people who collect medicinal herbs and harvest bamboo, these activities interfere with the panda’s ability to move between areas to look for food ultimately isolating their populations.
5) High rate of population growth.
Bamboo plants naturally die off every fourty to one hundred and twenty years, depending on the type. Before people started living in this habitat pandas could move from areas where die offs were happening to areas where they could find healthy bamboo trees. But as as human beings encroach the habitats of giant pandas,they are unable to follow the bamboo so they often live in some areas where they cannot get food leading to their death.
The World Wildlife Federation has been active in giant panda conservation since 1980, and there has been notable increase in the population of giant pandas.