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The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is a fascinating mammal who's known not only for his cuddly black and white appearance, but also for his declining numbers. Giant pandas have had "endangered" status since the 1980s. Enthusiastic conservation missions are in full swing in China and in other parts of the world.
Information on Giant Pandas
Giant pandas in the wild have a highly limited geographic scope, as they are found only in south-central China's provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. These forest and mountain inhabitants eat mostly bamboo, but they sometimes consume musk deer fawns, wee rodents, fruit, bulbs and bugs. These iconic animals generally weigh 300 pounds, according to the National Geographic. They usually grow to between 4 and 5 feet high.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
In the United States, the giant panda was declared an endangered species on Jan. 23rd, 1984. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service made this declaration as part of the Endangered Species Act. As a result, giant pandas could not be imported into the United States for commercial purposes.
Red List of Threatened Species
The International Union for Conservation of Nature placed giant pandas in its "rare" categories in 1986 and 1986. In 1990, the group's Red List of Threatened Species officially declared them endangered. In the 1994, 1996 and 2008 evaluations, giant pandas were again listed as endangered. Populations of giant pandas are still going down in their natural habitats, where an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 remain.
Loss of habitat is a severe threat to giant pandas. Many factors contribute to their habitat woes, including unreliable supplies of bamboo, agricultural expansion, poaching, cattle grazing and unlawful logging. Giant pandas are frequently destroyed accidentally by hunters aiming to kill musk deer, generally via setting up traps. More than 300 giant pandas reside in captivity internationally, notes the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Many of them are part of breeding missions aimed at putting giant pandas back in their natural habitats.
- San Diego Zoo Animal Bytes: Giant Panda
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Giant Pandas
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Ailuropoda Melanoleuca
- International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species: Ailuropoda Melanoleuca
- National Geographic: Giant Panda
- World Wildlife Fund: Giant Panda
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service International Affairs: Giant Pandas
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile: Giant Panda
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Giant Panda Facts
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images