What Is in a Giant Panda Habitat?

Soo Owens

Giant pandas are a rare and endangered species, and their scarcity is, in part, due to the rapid destruction of their habitat. The remaining giant panda habitat mostly consists of bamboo forests between two mountain ranges in China. Large quantities of bamboo can be found in the habitat, which is well shaded and near water.

The giant panda habitat that remains in the wild lies in the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Sichuan.
The giant panda habitat that remains in the wild lies in the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Sichuan.

The giant panda habitat that remains in the wild lies in the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Sichuan. These habitats are scattered and isolated, usually on the slopes of the surrounding mountain chains, such as Qinling, Minshan, and Xiaoxiangling. Approximately 20 such habitats still exist, and fewer than 2,000 giant pandas are believed to remain in the wild.

Giant pandas eat some varieties of mushrooms.
Giant pandas eat some varieties of mushrooms.

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It was once thought that the giant panda diet consisted of only bamboo, but it is now known that they also consume small animals, fish, mushrooms, and a few other plants that are usually present in a giant panda habitat. The entirety of their diet is found on mountain slopes as well as in the streams and rivers at the base of the mountain.

A bamboo forest.
A bamboo forest.

Bamboo is the most prominent feature within a giant panda habitat. Despite the fact that giant pandas are carnivores, bamboo makes up about 95% of their diet. To maintain good health, a giant panda must consume copious amounts of bamboo every day and often spends most of its day eating.

Giant pandas are proficient climbers and swimmers, and these abilities allow them to play and forage for food in an efficient manner. A giant panda habitat usually exists in an area that is forested and near water, and they begin to climb trees at only six months of age. The types of trees that they climb varies from area to area, limited usually by the panda's weight. Pandas will sometimes swim in order to catch fish to eat or to cool off on a hot day.

Pandas are mostly solitary and live on their own until the mating season. They do not hibernate, and, as a result, have no permanent residence. Instead, they tend to sleep under a heavily shaded tree or in a cave found in their habitat.

In zoos or wildlife refuges, an artificial giant panda habitat must imitate the panda's habitat in the wild. These artificial areas must strike a balance between stony terrain and lush forest. Large, sturdy rocks and trees are added to the environment to give pandas a place to climb while streams and cooled caves offer the giant pandas a place to relax and retreat from the sun.

Many species of bamboo that are native to the giant panda habitat in the wild are also added. Other plants that are known to be edible and non-harmful are also arranged within the artificial habitat. The prepared food fed to pandas living in zoos is reminiscent of their native diet, but they spend most of the day eating available bamboo and leaves.

Young giant panda in a tree.
Young giant panda in a tree.

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