Giant Panda 大熊貓
Binomial name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca (literally "cat-foot black-and-white")
The Giant Panda is a mammal classified in the bear family (Ursidae), native to central-western and southwestern China.The Giant Panda was previously thought to be a member of the Procyonidae family because they used to eat meat and fish (raccoons and their relatives). It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though belonging to the order Carnivora, the Giant Panda has a diet which is 99% bamboo. The Giant Panda may eat other foods such as honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, and bananas when available.
The Giant Panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. It once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict the Giant Panda to the mountains.
The Giant Panda is an endangered species and highly threatened. According to the latest report,China has 239 Giant Pandas in captivity and another 27 living outside the country. It also estimated that around 1,590 pandas are currently living in the wild. However, a 2006 study, via DNA analysis, estimated that there might be as many as 2,000 to 3,000 Giant Pandas in the wild. Though reports show that the numbers of wild pandas are on the rise, the International Union for Conservation of Nature believes there is not enough certainty to remove the Giant Panda from the endangered animal list.
While the dragon has historically served as China's national emblem, in recent decades the Giant Panda has also served as an emblem for the country.
- ► 2009 (14)