Panda Updates – Friday, September 13
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on Earth. It grows so quickly that in some instances you can see it grow right before your eyes. However, despite being the fastest growing plant, it is also one of the slowest plants to flower. A bamboo species can go anywhere from 60 years to 130 years between flowering and seed dispersal events. In addition, that species of bamboo, regardless of geographic location and climate, will all flower at the same time if they came from the same mother plant. Most bamboo species are descended from one another, and they share the same or similar genetic makeup, so when that species starts flowering in one part of the world, that same species will start flowering on the opposite side of the globe at roughly the same time. This crazy phenomenon is called gregarious flowering. This phenomenon was responsible for the starvation of many wild giant pandas in the 1970s. The pandas preferred bamboo all flowered and died off at the same time. That, along with pressures from human development, caused about 250 giant pandas to die of starvation. There was other nutritionally valuable bamboo still living, but the pandas were unable to travel to it because of agricultural expansion. This is why habitat fragmentation is one of the largest threats to giant pandas in their native habitats. Sure, bamboo grows quickly, but the risk of a mass amount of it dying off at the same time is high. Luckily, here at Zoo Atlanta, we can offer a variety of bamboo species and adjust to the bears’ preferences.
Keeper II, Mammals
(photo by Danica W.)