Giant pandas are huge, black and white mammals found in the mountainous regions of China. Besides their adorable look, these lovely animals are known for their foraging behavior. They spend about half of their day feeding.
However, there is more to like about these species than their looks and feeding patterns. For instance, their breeding and communication patterns are also worth exploring. This article highlights the various fascinating giant panda behaviors.
Behavioral Adaptations of a Giant Panda
Scientifically known as Ailuropoda melanoleuca, translating to “black and white cat-foot,” giant pandas have several behavioral adaptations to help them survive. Unlike other bear species, giant pandas do not hibernate. Instead, they move to lower altitudes when the weather is not favorable.
Giant pandas’ physical attributes also help in their survival. For instance, they inhabit the mountainous regions of China, Myanmar, and Northern Vietnam. The Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi forests can get so cold, demanding the species’ adaptation. For this, their body is covered with fur.
Apart from their warm and wooly skin, giant pandas’ fur is oily to prevent water from penetrating their skin. Additionally, their large molars and strong muscles intimidate anyone who wants to get closer to them.
Giant Panda Social Behaviors
Chinese folklore has it that there once lived a young girl who befriended the giant pandas. When she died, the pandas were so sad that they came to her funeral. As they rubbed their eyes with their hands to wipe away tears, dark patches were formed and transmitted to the rest of their body parts. This explains how they got their black and white pigments.
One of the reasons why giant pandas are widely adored is their peaceful nature. However, contrary to the Chinese folklore, they are primarily solitary animals. They only socialize with others when necessary, for example, mating time. Giant pandas tend to avoid confrontations as much as possible.
However, the animals do not shy away from defending themselves if the need arises. They can get physical, using their teeth and powerful jaws to protect themselves from other animals, such as bears. If they have to communicate, they’ll do so by chomping, chirping, barking, or honking, depending on the message they want to pass.
The Feeding Patterns of a Giant Panda
Even though giant pandas are classified as omnivores, they are 99% herbivores. They mainly feed on bamboo, with the slow eaters taking up to 14 hours daily to fill their bellies. Estimates show these bear family members can consume about 12kgs of bamboo daily. These include plant parts such as the roots, leaves, and stems.
There is a twist: even though they eat a lot, giant pandas lack the gut bacteria needed to extract maximum nutrients from what they consume. As such, they usually end up digesting only about 17% of the ingested food.
Apart from bamboo, giant pandas can feed on smaller animals and fishes, hence their omnivore classification.
Giant Panda Mating Behavior
Pandas are mammals, which means their females must ovulate for fertilization to occur during copulation. Interestingly, female pandas only ovulate once per year, and the males have a relatively shorter window to fertilize them. This explains why pandas refuse to mate during the better part of the year.
Given their solitary nature, competition for females is not that high – a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 5 males per female is often the case. Usually, the biggest male panda wins, thanks to their loud roaring and aggressive pushing abilities.
On their part, female pandas emit scents, signifying that they are ready to mate. They achieve this by rubbing against trees and urinating. In some cases, they can make chirping or bleating calls. Once they find a mate, the female will lift their tail and walk backward toward them.
So, are pandas too lazy to mate? Researchers have expressed concern about giant pandas’ tendency to “get too comfortable” that they don’t bother mating. This, in turn, puts the species at risk of extinction. They usually reach sexual maturity by age 4 to 7.
Nocturnal Behavior of Giant Pandas
Given their feeding patterns, you would imagine that giant pandas spend their days awake eating. However, it’s the opposite; they are nocturnal animals, meaning they are more active at night. Like most nocturnal animals, giant pandas have vertical slit-shaped pupils, which enhance their night vision.
Giant pandas are mainly solitary animals inhabiting the mountainous regions of China. Even though they are 99% vegetarian (bamboo eaters specifically), they can feed on small animals and fish too. They have warm fur covering their body and do not go into hibernation like other bear species.
Most people consider giant pandas shy. This is because they tend to avoid confrontations as much as they can. However, when the need arises, for example, when protecting their young ones, they can get physical. Most of their fights involve the other bear species.