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Post by ambuj@chauhan Mon Apr 27, 2009 2:32 pm

Giant Panda, common name for a bear found in provinces of western China. The giant panda resembles other bears in general appearance, with the exception of the black patches over its eyes, ears, and legs and the black band across its shoulders. Giant pandas live in bamboo forests at high elevations and feed primarily on bamboo. Unlike other bears, they vocalize by bleating rather than roaring.

Females weigh about 80 kg (about 180 lb), and males weigh about 100 kg (about 220 lb). The giant panda's so-called sixth front toe is not a digit or claw but an enlarged wrist bone that functions as a thumb in grasping food. Giant pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo, which is not highly nutritious. Furthermore, some bamboo species flower simultaneously and die shortly afterward, occasionally leading to starvation among giant panda populations. If their usual food supply is threatened, giant pandas may feed on gardens, crops, and even chickens, but they are little threat to people except in close encounters. The habitats of family groups and the survival of juvenile giant pandas are still poorly understood. Giant pandas seem to have no permanent den and do not hibernate, although they shelter in the winter in dens or hollow trees. Giant pandas are fairly solitary most of the year. Females may live in loose groups within the range of a dominant male.

Breeding takes place from March to May, and the young are born three to six months later weighing only 85 to 140 g (3 to 5 oz). Two cubs may be born, but only one survives. The young cry loudly for help and require great care from the mothers, and losses of young are a serious problem in the recovery and management of giant-panda populations. The giant panda's broken range has created six isolated populations. The total number of giant pandas in the wild is now about 1,000. Because giant pandas are restricted to a small area of western China, their status may be the most precarious of all the species of bears. World interest and research funds from many nations have improved the giant panda's status, but the species remains vulnerable to humans.

Scientific classification: The giant panda was formerly classified as a member of the raccoon family, but it now is considered a true bear. The giant panda belongs to the subfamily Ailuropodinae in the family Ursidae, order Carnivora. It is classified as Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

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Ambuj Pratap

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