Panda Updates – Wednesday, October 2
We’re back with more from our series on myths and misconceptions about giant pandas! Pandas are sometimes referred to as an “evolutionary dead-end,” meaning that what some consider to be biological deficiencies are responsible for giant pandas’ own population decline. These so-called “deficiencies” primarily refer to the fact that they are carnivorous animals feeding almost exclusively on bamboo, along with the erroneous belief that giant pandas are poor breeders. However, when you look at giant pandas compared with other bear species (as we have in a number of these updates), you will see that they really aren’t that much different than other members of the bear family. Panda reproductive success in human care, as we mentioned, has a lot to do with the inability to provide an infinite number of mate choices. In their native habitat, giant pandas reproduce about as frequently as other bear species, having offspring every two to three years. In addition, what bamboo lacks in nutritional quality, it makes up for in abundance. Giant pandas are well adapted to eating bamboo and absorbing the surprising amount of protein it contains. It’s actually very valuable to have such an abundant food source because it means that there is minimal to no competition for food. Giant pandas as a species have survived well over 2 million years on a bamboo diet; their populations started decreasing as human populations started increasing. As we’ve mentioned before, most of threats that pandas face, and unfortunately a lot of the stereotypes associated with them, have to do with human-made causes such as habitat fragmentation and deforestation. If you’d like to learn more and see some cited scientific articles referring to these issues, you can check out the Giant Panda IUCN page at https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/712/121745669#habitat-ecology.
Keeper II, Mammals