March 16 is National Panda Day, a day for celebrating the fluffiest, bamboo-munching bears.
Every year on March 16, we celebrate the fluffiest, bamboo-munching bears that are a source of national pride for China. There are two subspecies of panda: The Giant, black and white panda, and the ‘Qinling panda’ – A much smaller, brown subspecies of panda, discovered in 1985 in the mountain ranges of the southern Shaanxi Province in China. In the wilderness, giant pandas live only in the remote, mountainous regions of China. As of 2019, due to rapidly growing population numbers, the status of pandas was upgraded from “endangered” species to “vulnerable” species.
Still, it is reported that there are less than 2,000 pandas left in the wild, due to habitat loss, farming, fur hunting, and other factors. Pandas only live about 15 to 20 years in the wild, but those in captivity can live even longer. Panda bears play an important part in the ecosystem of China’s bamboo forests, by spreading seeds, and therefore, growing new vegetation, which serves both humans and animals. That’s why it is important to protect the panda and its environment.
One factor contributing to their endangered status is the low birth rate for pandas. Considering that female pandas are only fertile two or three days of the year, it makes sense that reproduction in the wild is more difficult for this species. There are about 27 zoos worldwide that protect Giant Pandas, and foster environments to encourage reproduction. The most important factor for preserving wild pandas is to protect their environment, especially bamboo forests, their main source of nutrition.
To celebrate the special day, here are some fun facts about pandas.
A “panda year” is equivalent to three human years.
Giant pandas can live 18 to 20 years, however in captivity they can live up to 25 to 30 years. The world’s oldest giant panda was named Xinxing and he lived to be 38 years old and four months, which is the equivalent of 115 human years.
Pandas have six fingers.
Pandas have a total of six fingers. This sixth finger acts like a human thumb, however it is a little different than a thumb because it does not have any moveable joints. It helps them to form their bamboo so they can eat it.
If a panda has twins, it will abandon one.
Bad news for all my fellow twins out there. Panda cubs are very dependent on their mothers and unfortunately a mom panda can’t raise two pandas at the same time. Female pandas don’t have sufficient milk or energy to care for two babies at once. Panda cubs are known to stay with their moms until they are two and a half years old, or until the mother panda is pregnant again.
All pandas do is eat and sleep.
Pandas are living the dream. A typical adult panda will spend as long as 12 hours eating and can eat up to 84 pounds of bamboo a day. When they aren’t looking for food, pandas spend their time sleeping.
Pandas like their alone time.
Pandas are solitary animals, meaning that they have their own territory and do not want it to be invaded by other pandas. Since they don’t need to hunt for food, pandas are content with their own 1 to 3 square miles of bamboo forest to survive.
Pandas used to eat meat.
After sabre-tooth tigers became extinct, Pandas didn’t need to worry about being fast to survive. In order to help save their own species, they became becoming bamboo-specialists.
Why do pandas have black and white coats?
Pandas have black and white coats to help them camouflage. Since they spend most of their time looking for bamboo, they need to blend into their surroundings. Pandas are white to blend into snow and black to blend into the shadows of the forests.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL PANDA DAY
Though the origin of this holiday is unknown, we can assume that the day was created to bring awareness to the beauty of pandas, in order to keep them from going extinct. In 1961, the World Wide Fund for Nature was formed, and created their logo around the Panda, because it is “an animal that is beautiful, endangered, and loved by many people in the world,” as said by Sir Peter Scott, one of the first WWF founders. The panda became a symbol of the conservation movement around the world — a call to action to preserve endangered species, and our natural wildlife environments for our wild animals.
In 2020, due to the reproduction efforts in zoos, reforestation and conservation campaigns, pandas are considered “vulnerable” to extinction. Though they are no longer on the brink of extinction, it’s important to keep the environment for pandas intact, as the giant panda plays an important part in our natural ecosystem. There have been some political debates in China and worldwide recently on how important it is to keep spending money to breed pandas in captivity, and protect the forests of China, where the wild panda bears live. According to a scientific paper published in 2015 by The Society for Conservation Biology, preserving the natural habitat of the giant panda also helps 70% of the country’s forest birds, 70% of mammals and 31% of amphibians. Pandas play a crucial role in forests, and it’s our job to protect them.
NATIONAL PANDA DAY FAQS
Is there a National Red Panda Day?
International Red Panda Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of September every year. This year it lands on September 19.
When is National Panda Day?
We celebrate one of the world’s most adorable creatures every year on March 16, National Panda Day.
Are pandas carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?
Pandas are omnivores. Though they are physiologically made to eat meat, they prefer to eat vegetarian, occasionally eating some meat, though it’s diet is reportedly 99% bamboo.
NATIONAL PANDA DAY ACTIVITIES
- Watch a nature documentary about pandas
The ‘Kung Fu Panda’ animated series is a place to start, but real-life documentaries will do pandas more justice. For example, watch “A Panda Is Born — Documentary About Taishan”, which describes the life of one of the most famous pandas in the world, who was born in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and is the first panda to survive to maturity.
- Wear pandas to start a conversation
Don clothes with panda logos, or buy panda paraphernalia, especially if it contributes to the conservation of the panda species. You never know who might be interested in learning more than just the fluffy cuteness of these creatures.
- “Adopt a Panda”
You can sponsor and virtually “adopt” a panda online, which would help provide for their future existence. The cost to care for a panda in captivity can be expensive, but you are providing these creatures with longer, peaceful lives.
5 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT PANDAS
- They spend 14 hours just eating
This amounts to consuming up to 83 pounds of bamboo every day, depending on what part of the bamboo they are eating.
- Their scientific name has an odd meaning
The scientific name for the panda is Ailuropoda melanoleuca, which means black and white cat food!
- Newborn pandas are blind
They start to see around 6 weeks old. Throughout their lives, they rely on spatial memory more than visual memory.
- Five fingers and a pseudo-thumb
Pandas use their enlarged wrist bones to eat, which function as opposable thumbs.
- The oldest panda in captivity
Jia Jia, a giant female panda at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, lived to age 38 from March 1978 – October 2016.
WHY WE LOVE NATIONAL PANDA DAY
- They serve as an International symbol of friendship and peace
Exchanges of giant pandas to American and Japanese zoos in the 1970s marked some of the first cultural gifts exchanged between China and the West. This has been termed “panda diplomacy”. The Chinese still consider pandas to be honored guests, and some people believe they bring good luck.
- Their relaxed schedule of naps and cuddle piles
Though pandas are normally shy and antisocial with humans, they love to cuddle with each other, and nap for hours after a meal. It’s hard not to love these fluffy, tuxedo-wearing mammals, both in the wild and in zoos.
- Baby pandas are the cutest baby mammals
A giant panda baby is the smallest mammal newborn relative to its mother’s size. When they are born, they are usually the size of a stick of butter.
Giant pandas are loved the world over but nowhere more than in China, where they are considered national treasures. On March 16, we celebrate these distinctive bears, which live mainly in forests in the mountains of western China and subsist almost entirely on a diet of bamboo. These black-and-white giants start off small—a newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter—but after eating their way through between 26 and 84 pounds of bamboo a day, male adults can weigh in at up to 300 pounds.
China’s Chengdu Panda Base, pictured on our homepage, houses one of the world’s largest populations of giant pandas bred in captivity. Their journey started with six rescued giant pandas in the 1980s, and the base is now home to about 150 of these beautiful animals. In the wild, panda numbers are rebounding after years of decline thanks to conservation efforts. The species has been upgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ but they still require our help—and events like Panda Day—to raise awareness of the need to protect these loveable giants.
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IWeb TEFL Team