Why Are Pandas Scarce?

If you had the opportunity to choose any wild animal or zoo resident to keep as a pet, what would you choose? If you’re similar to many children, you would select a giant panda to snuggle with at night. However, would a giant panda be a suitable pet?

Undeniably, they are adorable. Who can resist their plump bodies and lovable faces? They appear so huggable that you would want to pinch their cheeks and embrace them. However, taking care of them would be quite a task.

First and foremost, they eat a tremendous amount. An adult giant panda consumes approximately 12 hours each day. Over that time period, it devours about 20-40 pounds of bamboo. This also implies that pandas need to relieve themselves dozens of times daily. That necessitates a lot of cleaning!

Therefore, it is most likely best to leave the pandas in their natural habitat and in zoos. Unfortunately, there are not many pandas remaining in either location nowadays.

If you desire to observe a giant panda in the wild, you will need to visit the cool, damp bamboo forests in the remote, mountainous regions of central China. Additionally, you must be extremely stealthy, as pandas possess a heightened sense of smell that aids them in keeping their distance from predators – and other pandas.

Giant pandas typically lead a predominantly solitary existence. They do seek mates in the spring, and females give birth to one or two cubs in the fall. Unfortunately, the giant panda’s birth rate is quite low. Pandas in the wild have only recently begun to replenish their numbers due to ongoing global conservation efforts.

Estimates of wild panda populations vary significantly. Some experts believe there are as few as 1,000 giant pandas remaining in the wild. Other scientists estimate that there are approximately 1,600 pandas left. However, a recent study employing DNA analysis concludes that there could still be as many as 3,000 pandas in the wild.

In addition to the wild pandas, there are approximately 250 pandas in zoos, primarily within China. These magnificent, tranquil creatures are adored by millions of individuals worldwide. In their homeland of China, they are considered a national treasure. They have few natural predators. So why are they so scarce? Who is their greatest adversary?

Regrettably, it is us. Human beings are the reason why so few pandas now roam the forests of China. In the past, pandas were hunted for their valuable fur. Poaching has decreased in recent years due to new legislation and greater public awareness of conservation efforts.

However, the most significant problem arose from habitat loss that began in earnest around 1950, when China underwent a population boom. Increased development resulted in deforestation and farming, all of which forced many pandas out of the lowland areas they once inhabited.

As roads and railways were constructed through these regions, the forests that pandas called home became increasingly fragmented. For solitary animals that already struggled to successfully mate, reproduction became even more challenging. Moreover, the destruction of their native forests decimated much of the bamboo that pandas relied on for survival.

Fortunately, there are scientists who believe that the number of pandas in the wild is increasing again. The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, which is more than four times the number that existed just a few decades ago. The giant panda, once considered an endangered species, has recently been reclassified as “vulnerable,” indicating that conservation efforts are having an impact. With ongoing conservation efforts, there is hope that giant pandas will once again reach the population levels of the past.

Give it a Try

We hope you haven’t had enough of adorable pandas just yet. Try one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member for even more panda-tastic fun!

  • Feeling creative? Dress up as a panda for your next party or even Halloween! With a paper plate and a few simple materials, you can easily make this Panda Mask. Make some extras for your friends and family, and you can even throw your very own panda-themed party. It’s going to be pandemonium!
  • One of the most effective ways to protect giant pandas is by preserving their habitats in China. In the Habitat Adventure: Panda Challenge!, you will make decisions about a fictional forest reserve. You will use binoculars, field guides, a camera, and other tools, as well as communicate with local people to make the best choices.
  • Did you know that there are Simple Things You Can Do To Conserve the Environment? It’s true! Print out a copy of the idea sheet and discuss it with your family members. What actions can you take right at home? You can even use the template to create your own Family Conservation Action Plan!

Sources of Wonder

  • http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/09/pandas-vulnerable-endangered-species/
  • http://worldwildlife.org/species/giant-panda
  • http://www.edu.pe.ca/southernkings/panda.htm
  • http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/giant-panda/

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