Giant Pandas in nature
Giant Pandas aren’t party animals by any stretch of the imagination. Like other bears, they spend most of the day eating and sleeping. Wild pandas are solitary in nature and they take their own “space” seriously!
Since a panda needs so many bamboos to survive, this creature never lives in herds or flocks in a bamboo forest. If two unfamiliar pandas happen to cross paths, they will growl, swat, and fight, or even bite each other. There are two exceptions for this less-welcoming attitude: the very brief mating season and the mother with her cubs.
Giant Pandas‘ offspring season
Pandas tend to be alone most of the year. They have a very short breeding season. The male looks for the female to mate with. Males are exposed to the scents of other neighboring female pandas that have crossed over their path many days or weeks before.
If a female is starting her estrus soon, it makes sense that she would need to advertise her status to any males that might be in the area. Therefore, females leave scents in their area.
After a few days, when a male panda comes across her scent, he can recognize the change in her status via that scent mark. Our research in Wolong has confirmed that males are more interested in scent from a female who was known to be in estrus at the time she left the scent.
Once he has identified this change in a female’s status, the male remains closer to this female, assessing her status more frequently and keeping closer tabs on her. Therefore, he can be present when she is ready for mating.
This is really important because there is only a two- to three-day period that the female is receptive to breeding. When she is no longer receptive, the male moves on to find another willing female. Plus, male pandas do not help raise any cubs born.
Females often give birth to one or two cubs. The baby pandas are very dependent on their mother during their first few years of life. In the wild, mother pandas take care of only one of the young. In Chinese panda facilities or zoos, keepers help to raise any twin cubs. One baby is left with the mother. the keepers switch the twins every few days so each one gets care and milk directly from the mother.
Pandas also have a slow reproductive rate. Mature females usually breed just once every two or three years. In the wild, a typical female panda may bear about five litters in her lifetime.
Giant pandas are only about the size of a stick of butter when they are born. They are hairless and helpless. The panda mother gives great care to her tiny cub. She usually holds it close to her chest with one paw. For several days after birth, the mother won’t leave the den, not even to eat or drink!
The cub’s eyes open at 50 to 60 days of age. After 10 weeks, the cub begins to crawl. Its teeth appear when it is 14 weeks old. Then, the mother and cub panda spend much less time using their den. By 21 weeks, the cub can walk pretty well and they start to play with its mother.
At 7 to 9 months of age, the baby panda starts attempting to eat bamboo. The cub continues to nurse until about 18 months of age. At this time, the mother is ready to send the cub off on its own, so she can prepare for her next cub.
Giant Pandas‘ enemies
Once a young panda reaches a weight of about 110 pounds (50 kilograms) and is about 2.5 years old, it is probably safe from predators. However, animals such as the golden cat, yellow-throated marten, dhole, and weasel often prey on panda cubs and juveniles.
Long ago, panda cubs were also tigers and leopards’ prey because they are slow and cannot protect themselves. To stay safe, solitary panda cubs scamper high in trees and remain there until their mother returns. They can spend hours and hours sleeping in those trees.
When they stay quietly in the branches, they can be hard to spot. Even the San Diego Zoo’s pandas can easily be overlooked when they sleep in trees. For that reason, they have cut down a part of the trees for better viewing for their guests.
Today, pandas have fewer predators than they did historically. Tigers don’t generally show up in panda habitat. On the other hand, Leopards are found there but they have reduced in numbers. The pandas’ instincts are still the same and we can see it even in pandas housed in zoos and breeding centers.
Since the number of pandas species has reduced recently, we need to do more to protect these animals. Besides expanding the panda habitat, raising awareness of environmental protection and wildlife is necessary. Spread these messages by using products with pandas’ symbol such as caps, T-shirts, 3d pop-up cards … Moreover, giving a popup card picture with a panda model inside is also another way to stimulate curiosity about wildlife for kids.