The Giant Panda Is a Gentle and Shy Creature
by Penelope Lawson, age 7
The giant panda is an endangered animal that lives in bamboo forests in China. There are only about 1,500 giant pandas left in the wild and their natural habitat is getting smaller, since they do not like living around people and there are fewer bamboo species in the forests too.
Since giant pandas live in bamboo forests, bamboo makes up 99 percent of what they eat. They eat almost every part of the bamboo plants, both the shoots and the leaves. However, pandas do not eat only plants. They are omnivores, meaning that they can also eat small animals, like fish and mice. Pandas only digest 20 percent of the food they eat. Because of this, they have to eat a lot of food, often 15 percent of their body weight in 12 hours.
Through time, pandas evolved to be able to eat bamboo. They have big, flat molars to chew on the thick stems. Pandas can hold bamboo in their front paws because they have bigger wrist bones that play the role of thumbs.
Female giant pandas weigh up to 200 pounds, male pandas weigh up to 250. Female pandas usually have one baby, but when they have more than one, they will abandon the smaller baby to take care of the stronger one. Taking care of a panda cub takes a lot of energy, attention, and milk, so two would usually be too difficult for the mother.
Since giant pandas are endangered, it is important to keep as many of them alive as possible.
[Sources: National Geographic Kids; BBC Earth]