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What Are the Dietary Needs of a Giant Panda?

Giant pandas have unique dietary needs, relying on bamboo for 99% of their intake. These peaceful creatures consume up to 38 kilograms daily, requiring a balance of nutrients found in different parts of the bamboo. Their gut flora is specialized to break down fibrous bamboo, despite a carnivorous digestive system. Intrigued? Discover how these gentle giants thrive on such a singular diet.

Because they are technically bears, giant pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore. But these big cuddly-looking bears rarely eat much protein. Their diet features bamboo – and lots of it. Pandas spend at least 12 hours a day gobbling bamboo stalks and leaves – from 28 pounds (12.7 kg) up to a whopping 84 pounds (38 kg) a day by some estimates. They tend to eat continuously in order to keep their digestive tracts full, and after all that roughage, they mostly live sedentary lives with few social interactions.

Pondering the panda:

  • While bamboo makes up 99 percent of a giant panda’s diet in the wild, they will sometimes hunt for pikas and other small rodents.

  • Newborn pandas average about 3.7 ounces (105 g), while adults can weigh up to 275 pounds (125 kg). They live to be 18 to 20 years old in the wild but have lived to be more than 30 years old in captivity.

  • Pandas hold bamboo stalks with all five fingers and use their teeth to peel off the tough outer layers and access the soft inner tissue. They also wad up bamboo leaves and swallow them whole.

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