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Giant Panda Bear

The Giant Panda Bear is perhaps the most internationally known animal associated with wildlife conservation. Everyone from Alaska to Zaire has heard of the plight of the Panda Bear. The Giant Panda Bear is even used as the logo for the “WORLD WILDLIFE FUND”, one of the largest international wildlife conservation organizations in existence. Everyone just seems to love Panda Bears, and as a result these animals instill an interest in their protection. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to only want to protect what is cute and cuddly. The truth is, all Flora and Fauna deserves our protection, not just the “Cute”. Everything in nature is connected in some way, even if we cannot understand the link. For example, the poison from one species of South American POISON DART FROG has been discovered by scientist to be 20 times more effective than Morphine to treat pain with Zero addictive properties. What you may not know is that we still do not know how the tiny 1 inch yellow frog gets it's poison. It is speculated that the frog eats a certain insect, which eats a certain fungus that grows on a certain type of rotting rainforest wood. In captivity, the frogs lose 95% of their venomous potency, so we cannot yet harvest it medically. This is just one example of how nature is connected, and how important it is to protect as much remaining wildlife and wild places as possible.

Now back to the Giant Panda Bear! Panda Bears are found in parts of South China, Tibet, Nepal and few other countries. Pandas are known for their thick black and white fur and patched eyes. Only the Polar Bear rivals a Panda Bear in beauty among the Ursidae (Bear) family.

Pictures of Pandas
Giant Panda Bear

Panda Bear
Panda Bears are very hard to classify and there is much debate among scientists and taxonomists on where to classify them. To make a long story short, the Giant Panda Bear is extremely close to both bears and raccoons anatomically, and behaviorally. Although it may be hard for many of you to look at a picture of a Panda Bear and see the resemblance of a raccoon. To make it easier, take a look at a RED PANDA or “Lesser Panda”. Scientists are constantly going back and forth discussing the connection and classification of these two “ Panda Bears”. To me and you, it is obvious that Panda Bears look more like bears than raccoons, but to a taxonomist it is much more complex. I’ll leave the details of this to another article.

The Panda Bear prefers mountainous bamboo forests. It inhabits elevations between 7,500 and 12,000 feet. In times of extreme cold, the Panda does not hibernate like most bears. Instead, it typically descends to a lower elevation down the mountain in the winter. Their diet is primarily soft bamboo shoots. However they have been documented hunting small mammals and fish. Still, 95% + of a Panda Bears diet is bamboo, which in itself can be one of the biggest threats to the survival of Wild Panda Bears. This is something David actually taught me years ago about bamboo. Bamboo does not “Flower” every year like most plants. In reality, bamboo is the “Worlds Largest Grass”. Each species of bamboo has a different “Flowering Cycle” that can be anywhere between every 1 to every 150 years. I know what you are thinking, “how is the “Flowering Cycle” of bamboo relevant to the survival of the Giant Panda Bear”? Well let me tell you! Immediately after a bamboo plant flowers, it dies. To make matters worse, every plant cultivated from the same lineage over generation and generation, regardless of whether it is moved to North Carolina or in China, flowers and dies at the exact same time. This fact in turn means a massive loss of Panda Bear food in native and captive habitats. Lucky this does not happen very often, but is does happen as it did a few years ago. When this occurs, China “Panda Bear Conservationist”, import other bamboo species to subsidize the wild Panda’s diet. By the way, while we are talking about bamboo and Pandas, do you know why a Panda Bears head is so big proportionally compared to most bears? It is because they require extra large zygomatic arches in their skulls to allow for the massive mastication muscles to fit. These muscles are needed to chew the bamboo husks. I love random trivia!

Anyhow, David and I are fired up to add this new area “Other Animals of Interest” to the Sanctuary’s Web Site. Although we would love to add a few Panda Bear Cams to our extensive collection of animal WEB CAMS scattered throughout the Sanctuary’s animal habitats; we will not be acquiring a Panda Bear anytime soon ;-)! In actuality, Panda Bears are in most cases “Governmental Gifts” between countries. They are also a very protected Endangered Species and are covered under CITES (Convention on the International Trade In Endangered Species).

David and I invite you all to visit the Sanctuary via the numerous Web Cams placed in the large naturalistic and enriching habitats of our resident White Tigers, Golden Tigers, Bengal Tigers, Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, Red Ruffed Lemurs and Ringtail Lemurs. We hope you will take the time to read up on the Sanctuary’s “Mission Statement” and learn from the “Educational Center”. We are constantly trying to improve and add educational content to the site, so please visit often as things are changing EVERY DAY! In the meantime, keep an eye out for our next “Animal of Interest” , Koala Bears!

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