Panda Updates – Wednesday, November 13
If you live in the United States, you are likely all too aware that we are going through a cold snap right now. Even in Georgia, it has gotten down into the twenties (Fahrenheit) at night. It may cause you to wonder, how do the Zoo animals feel about this cold weather? Well, in the giant panda building, it’s no problem! Pandas live in the mountains of China, where it gets pretty cold in the winter. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding’s facility is located in part of the giant panda’s historic range. There it rarely gets below 30°F, but is chilly for several months of the year. Giant pandas have thick fur, which helps them stay warm. They also adapt behaviorally – if they are living on a mountain, they will climb to a lower altitude in the winter, where they will find warmer temperatures. One study published in 2016 by Liu et. al. looked at variables in wild giant panda habitats in China and found that temperature seemed to be one of the most important variables, with pandas preferring to live in habitats that were about 64-69°F. Those kinds of studies are vital as China identifies habitat areas for protection and future reintroduction programs.
That brings me to what we do to help the giant pandas stay comfortable on a freezing night like this one: a nice, heated building! Armed with the knowledge of what temperatures pandas like best, thanks to studies like the one mentioned above, the thermostat will be set to a cozy 67°F tonight, right in their comfort range.
Keeper III, Mammals