High in the mountains of the cold and misty bamboo forests of southwest China lives an adorable animal, the giant panda.
Long ago, the giant panda lived all over central, southern, and eastern China and its neighbouring countries, Myanmar and northern Vietnam. But due to human population, the forests were cleared for farming and the building of towns and roads. The giant pandas' habitat became lesser and lesser.
Now, giant pandas live only in 20 isolated patches of bamboo forests in western China's Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi Provinces. The loss of forests prevents them from finding food and mates and is a threat to their survival. The Minshan and Qinling mountains are home to most of the remaining wild giant pandas. They live at a height of 4,000 to 11,500 feet (1,200 to 3,500 meters) in these mountains. To protect the habitat, the Chinese government has created more than 50 panda reserves*.
Giant pandas mainly eat bamboo shoots and leaves, so they need at least two types of bamboo species in their forests to have enough food to stay healthy. When there is not enough bamboo, they eat grass, fruits, and other available animals like rodents, birds, fish, or insects. They eat for almost 14 hours a day!
Giant pandas are black and white and are 27 to 32 inches tall. They weigh around 70 to 125 kilograms (155 to 275 pounds). Giant pandas are genetically related to bears and are considered to be bears. Their thick fur keeps them warm in the cold mountains. The giant panda makes a sound called a 'bleat', which sounds like a lamb's bleat. They also bark and growl but do not roar like bears. They have big wrist bones to help them hold onto bamboo stems. Giant pandas are excellent tree climbers.
A great variety of plants and animals live in the mountains with the giant pandas. Some of the animals living in their habitat include multi-coloured pheasants, crested ibis, golden monkeys, snow leopards, takins, and the red panda.
Giant pandas live in dens made of old logs or hollow tree trunks. When giant pandas move across the mountains they spread seeds through their droppings, creating more dense forests. Giant pandas live for 14 to 20 years in the wild!