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Panda FAQs
1. Why are We Fascinated With Panda?
2. How was Panda discovered by westerners?
3. What is Panda diplomacy? Which countries have giant panda  ambassadors?
4. Ten Interesting Facts about Giant Panda
5. What is a Giant Panda's family statu? Is Giant Panda a bear or a raccoon?
6. Why should we save the giant panda?
7.Where do wild giant panda live? Which animals also live with giant panda? 

In the dramatic high mountains of western China, in the secluded high altitude riverine valleys, and among the dense woods and verdant bamboo forests, live the most fascinating and mysterious creatures of the world ---giant pandas, known as the “bamboo forest hermits” in China. With an interesting lifestyle, pandas are solitary in the wild and seldom exposed to the outer world. The alpine forest is their natural habitat where they live and bear their young.

Giant Panda cub

1. Why Are We Fascinated With Panda?

Giant pandas are adored by people around the world. There are many reasons for being obsessed with this cute fluffy and endangered creature. Giant pandas have features that resemble those of humans: flat face, short tails, thumbs and sex organs hidden from view. They look like infant who are playfulness, clumsiness with the appearance of softness and a need for protection. This big round buddy however has a short cute name with bamboo diet seemingly harmless to people and other animals. Their perfectly combined black and white color implies the overall mystique of the universe just like Yin and Yang. Except for their appearance, their peaceful also playful personality makes human enchanted by this panda magic.

2. How was Panda discovered by westerners?

Giant panda lives like a hermit in misty mountains. The history of its discovery is full of drama and danger.

Timeline of Panda discovery

1. Discovery 1869-1900

Giant panda did not begin their meteoric rise to superstardom until about 130 years ago, when the French missionary Pere Armand David sent the first specimen from Muping in western Sichuan to the Paris natural history museum.
In 1897, the British got a specimen of a male giant panda in Si-er Commune of Pingwu County, Sichuan Province for the first time.
In the 1900, a scientist at the British museum examined a skull and assorted limb bones and concluded that they belonged not to a bear at all, but to a relative of the red panda. He renamed it "great panda", and moved the museum's specimens out of the bear gallery. That specimen is still preserved in the British Museum today.

2. Early hunting 1900-1928

In the era when big-game hunters were celebrities, giant pandas became the ultimate trophy. First to take up the quest were Kermit and Theodore Roosevelt Jr, the sons of the 26th president of US. Their China expedition was supported by the field Museum in Chicago, which stood to be the first in the U.S. to possess a giant panda.  After months of arduous travel through mountains rife with bandits, in 1928, the brothers earned the dubious distinction of being the first westerners to shoot a giant panda-with the invaluable help of the Yi people.

3. Bring Giant panda abroad alive 1930-1949

In the 1930s, a couple of Americans began vying to bring a giant panda back alive. Ruth Harkness, a fashion designer from United States, was the first person brought live panda out of china. She treaded it with Chicago Brookfield Zoo. The first panda called “Su Lin” just lived a little longer than one year
“Su Lin” spawned an entire industry of giant panda memorabilia, from plush toys and jewelry to cartoons and books.  Universal studio launched the animated cartoon character Andy panda in 1939.  “Su Lin” so enchanted Americans and Europeans that he is credited with ending the practice of killing giant pandas for science or sport.  On the other hand, Su Lin's wild popularity spurred zoo's efforts to obtain more giant pandas for their adoring public, though this was often as lethal to pandas as a shotgun. There was concern in some quarters that giant pandas were disappearing in the wild because local hunters continued to fill the markets of Chengdu with animals both dead and alive. From 1937 to 1946, a total of 14 giant pandas arrived alive in Western zoos. No one knows how many died en route. And none lived very long by modern standard, or ever bred.

4. Banning panda smuggling 1949 till now

The foundation of the PRC in 1949 finally ended the drain. China allowed no exports again until a few animals went to Europe in 1957 and 1959, but quickly stopped them despite the continued pleas of European zoos.

3. What is Panda diplomacy? Which countries have giant panda ambassadors?

The giant pandas’ survival strategy reflects Taoist philosophy. A Taoism doctrine goes "the sage tries his best to benefit all and contend with none". With their peacefulness, mystery and legends, they are made ambassadors of peace and friendship. 

Giant panda started its ambassador career in 1972. In a bold and unexpected move, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon met with People’s Republic of China’s Chairman Mao to mend the long rift between the two countries. This historic event was quickly overshadowed by some really big news: As a gesture of friendship, the PRC would send a pair of giant pandas to the US. Ling ling and hsing hsing became the world's most famous diplomats. Behind the scenes, the giant panda's gift inaugurated a scientific collaboration between national zoo and Chinese biologists that remains strong. 
China continued to send giant panda as diplomats to Tokyo, Paris, London, Mexico city, Madrid and Berlin. It becomes a real ambassador of China.

How did an animal with no particular historical significance in china, that no westerner had ever heard of before 1869 or seen alive until 1916, become a cultural demi-god? Except for its adorable appearance, what makes giant panda the most charismatic of the mega vertebrates?

4. Six Interesting Facts about Giant Panda

How did an animal with no particular historical significance in china, that no westerner had ever heard of before 1869 or seen alive until 1916, become a cultural demi-god? Except for its adorable appearance, what makes giant panda the most charismatic of the mega vertebrates?

1.Philosopher of black and white

No other animals have fascinated so many people as pandas. People, regardless of their gender, age, color, nationality, language or faith, become easily overwhelmed by their mystery and natural beauty.  The credit, it is said, is partially given to their colors. Their black and white markings, two prime colors of the universe, are vivid and natural, symmetric and harmonious, and mysteriously distributed. The pattern and composition, resembling the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang and coinciding with the Taji diagram of Chinese Taoism. They are in sharp contrast, while naturally connected, simple but profound bring people a sense of natural ease, a pleasure both to the eye and mind. 
The beautiful black and white pattern of giant pandas is extraordinary. The two colors, while in shining contrast, are in perfect balance. Pandas are adorned with innocent faces like children with adorable black eye circles, resembling the Chinese character of number eight(八). Pandas have a pair of round black furry ears and broad shoulders. They look simple and harmonious as a whole, naturally formed and perfect in every way.

Baby panda

2.Motional and motionless kungfu master 

In the eyes of many people, pandas appear slow and clumsy. Standing at a height of 1.7 meters and weighing on average 118kg (males) or 97 kg (females), they seem to walk slowly and eat bamboo gently all the time. So, it is hard for people to imagine that they are actually agile and strong.
Scientists believe that because they eat bamboo which is low in nutrient content, they slow down to save energy. Some non-experts say that pandas are foolish and lazy. As a matter of fact, this is a misconception. Pandas are mostly sedentary but also move frequently. Big and heavy as they are, pandas are perfect climbers. In the wild, high trees mot only protect them against predators but also give them excellent resting places. In trees, they can breathe fresh air, enjoy warm sunshine, and have a commanding view of the mountains while keeping informed of what is happening around them.
When panda are at rest, they appear calm and peaceful. If they feel danger or if they feel happy, they can run faster than young humans. They are more capable than humans in their amazing ability to climb trees, cross rivers and clamber up mountain cliffs in dense forests. Panda fine-tune their movement and rest to most efficiently maximize their limited nutritional resources. In the philosophy of Chinese kungfu, those who practice martial arts have to “stand like a pine, sit like a bell, and walk like a breeze” before they become kungfu masters. It is as if pandas have also endorsed this philosophy in their life. 

3.Wise vegetarians 

Panda eat a vegetarian diet despite their short digestive tract, being only five to six meters long on average, and similar to that of carnivores such as tigers, leopards or wolves. Bamboo accounts for over 99% of their diet. Pandas in the wild eat more than 60 varieties of bamboo with about 27 species being favored. Bamboo, a fast growing plant, is widespread in mountains and valleys. Bamboo shoots, leaves, and culms constitute an endless supply of food. It may have been due to the turn from a carnivore diet to bamboo-eating that pandas have survived eight million years of evolution. 
Bamboo has a low nutritional content so pandas are quite selective about the bamboo they choose to consume. They spend more than 10 hours a day feeding. To supplement their diet they occasionally enjoy a variety of wild plants like the Chinese gooseberry or wild parsnips. How pandas grow quickly from a weak, tiny, cub to sturdy animals by feasting mainly on bamboo, the nutritional content of which is almost negligible compared with high calorie foods consumed by humans and other species, is an amazing feat of evolution. Panda is surely a miracle of life.

 Panda mother teaching her naughty babies how to eat bamboo

4.Peace and friendship ambassador

The giant pandas’ survival strategy reflects Taoist philosophy. A Taoism doctrine goes "the sage tries his best to benefit all and contend with none". Pandas eat bamboo and inhabit high mountainous areas, rarely struggling for food against humans or other animals. With large and strong bodies not unlike those of predators with sharp claws like tiger and other bears, they are however good-natured and non-offensive.  They avoid the affairs of others and conform to the natural ways of things. Pandas are like non-verbal philosophers. They assert themselves perfectly by practicing minimal action. With their peacefulness, mystery and legends, they are made ambassadors of peace and friendship. 

5.Lifelong learner

As they are destined to live a solitary existence when they grow up, giant pandas have a lot to learn in the course of their early growth. Luckily, young pandas are fast learners.  Extremely curious and interested in everything, young pandas often learn actively of their own initiative.  Cubs over four months old, which are able to locomote independently, will begin to inquire about their surroundings, exploring trees, flowers, grass, bamboo thickets and pools. They probe into everything they can find. 
Adult giant pandas are extremely solitary. Because they live alone, there are many life skills for them to learn, like how to eat bamboo, find water, avoid dangers, mate and raise their babies. Without continued learning, their chances of survival are very slim. 

6.Territorial creatures

The territory of a wild panda varies from season to season. It depends on how difficult it is to look for food. In winter, it is not easy to find fresh and nutritious bamboo. They have to spend more time and travel a long distance. Sometimes in the wild, encounter with outsiders are unavoidable as their territory sometimes overlaps. In general, they do not fight but keep away from each other. Pandas are reluctant to leave their home. Once they establish their territory, they rarely move elsewhere except in the case of natural catastrophes or human induced disturbances. It is interesting that they are so attached to their territory.

 Giant Panda in nature

Facts must know about Giant Panda

The following two pics show you some data about the behavior and physical  like their size, weight, diet, life span, habitat, range etc. of this amazing wildlife.

source: Giant Panda, Smithsonian

source: Giant Panda, Smithsonian

5. What is Giant Panda's family statu? Is Giant Panda a bear or a raccoon?

With a growing awareness of the world wide wildlife conservation crisis, giant pandas also came to symbolize endangered species. The world wildlife fund has adopted the giant panda as its logo in 1961.  More research on this amazing creature has also been undertaken world widely.

Perhaps no subject in the study of how species of mammals are related has been more controversial. Should giant panda be grouped with bears, or raccoons, or the red panda, or are they the sole survivor of an ancient group that stands on its own?
The debate on its family status has been going on for 130 years and no consensus has yet been reached. Before 1980s, three schools existed arguing it belongs to Ursidae, Ailuropodidae and Procyonidae respectively. Later they gradually merged to two schools, that of Ursidae and Ailuropodidae.  
Scientists once thought giant panda and red panda were closely related. Now, based on genetic evidence and new fossil finds, they believe giant panda and red panda independently evolved as bamboo specialists.

 Red panda

6. Why should we save the giant panda?

Giant pandas are a conservation-dependent species requiring eternal vigilance. A 2007 report shows 239 pandas living in captivity inside China and another 27 outside the country. As of December 2014, 49 giant pandas live in captivity outside China, living in 18 zoos in 13 different countries. Wild population estimates vary; one estimate shows that there are about 1,590 individuals living in the wild, while a 2006 study via DNA analysis estimated that this figure could be as high as 2,000 to 3,000. Some reports also show that the number of giant pandas in the wild is on the rise. In March 2015, Mongabay stated the wild giant panda population increased by 268, or 16.8%, totaling to 1,864 individuals. However, the IUCN does not believe there is enough certainty yet to reclassify the species from endangered to vulnerable.

Deforestation has been primarily responsible for the giant panda's decline. Other threats could be human encroachment, fragmentation of their habitat, illness and predators.
Steps of Chinese Government

  1. 1939, the government of Sichuan briefly forbade the capture of giant pandas. It was perhaps the first wildlife conservation regulation in china. 
  2. 1946, a Chinese newspaper voiced fears that the market would drive giant panda into extinction.
  3. 1949, when People’s Republic of China established , the government allowed no panda exports for nearly a decade
  4. 1962, Chinese government explicitly addressed issues of giant panda conservation when giant panda were protected and hunting is banned.
  5. 1963, the first three giant panda reserves were established, growing to 13 by 1989 and to more than 60 today.
  6. Later on, in Tangjiahe Reserve, an entire logging operation was shut down and the farming commune that supported it resettled. 
Protection is critical for the giant panda’s survival, but alone it is not enough. Local communities eat away at panda habitat, as does logging. Political inattention threatens giant pandas. All of us can threaten giant pandas if we are not sensitive to the environmental impact of our own habits. Cooperation and understanding at all levels—global, national and within each village affected by and affecting the giant panda’s recovery—are the decisive factors in sustaining and restoring panda habitat.

7. Where do wild giant panda live? Which animals also live with giant panda?

The giant panda lives in a few mountain ranges in western China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in neighbouring provinces, namely Shaanxi and Gansu.

  Panda's habitat

The human footprint is very large in the mountains where giant pandas survive today. Conservation practice has taught us that effective conservation of biodiversity must meet the complex and diverse needs of both wildlife and people. China’s panda reserves play a central role. There are panda reserves in China. Wolong national nature reserve is the best studied of the region’s protected areas. It also falls into the World Wildlife Fund’s Global 200 list of priority ecoregions. In some nature reserves like Tangjiahe nature reserve, Laohegou nature reserve and Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, there are also opportunities to track panda in their habitat.

Panda’s companion animals

  Companion animals of Giant panda

The giant panda’s remote habitat is also home to a spectacular array of plants and animals, many of them are threatened by the same forces as the panda. Conservationists refer to giant pandas as an “umbrella species”. This means that the species’ home ranges are large enough, that setting aside an area large enough for its long-term survival will automatically protect other species that live under its umbrella. Under the panda’s umbrella lives some species who are officially listed as “rare and precious” by the Chinese government such as Takin, golden snub-nosed monkey, golden pheasants and Thorold’s deer, Leopards, cloud leopards and Asiatic black bears are also among the species that may live in panda habitat. Join our China wildlife tour, you will have the chance to track these animals and meet them out in the wild.

Local people

Not only these wild animals, human beings also share the same habitat with them. Most of the people who live close to giant pandas are minority groups. They are basically farmers living in the villages in the nature reserves. The principal threats to giant panda reserves are firewood collecting, logging, gathering forest products such as mushrooms, poaching, agriculture, grazing and mining. To secure a future for giant pandas, conservation actions must be adaptable, relevant and made socially acceptable by linking the welfare of pandas to that of people who live near them. A better future for all of us lies in establishing sustainable relationships between people and resources.

 A Tibetan little girl

Developing sustainable tourism in this area is also an alternative for local communities. Tourism based on wildlife and minority culture under the concept of sustainability is a win-win strategy for both local and nature. We also want to be a part of the conservation of wildlife and help with the local communities. We designed trips visiting nature reserves and minority communities to discover the life of nature creatures and local people. Please find more information in our China wildlife tour and China minority culture tour.

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