Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Giant Panda lives in mountainous regions, like Sichuan and Tibet. The Giant Panda is the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a conservation organization (http://www.wwf.org). Toward the latter half of the 20th century, the panda also became somewhat of a national emblem for China, and is now used in Chinese gold coins .
Despite being taxonomically a carnivore, their diet is overwhelmingly herbivorous. They eat shoots and leaves, living almost entirely on bamboo. Pandas are also known to eat eggs and some insects along with their bamboo diet. These are necessary sources of protein.
For many decades the precise taxonomic classification of the panda was under debate as both the Giant Panda and the distantly related Red Panda share characteristics of both bears and raccoons. However, genetic testing has revealed that Giant Pandas are true bears and part of the Ursidae family. Its closest bear relative is the Spectacled Bear of South America. Disagreement remains about whether or not the Red Panda belongs in Ursidae or the raccoon family, Procyonidae.
The Giant Panda has an unusual paw, with a "thumb" and five fingers; the "thumb" is actually a modified wrist-bone. Stephen Jay Gould wrote an essay about this, then used the title The Panda's Thumb for a book of collected essays.
The Giant Panda was first made known to the West in 1869 by the French missionary Armand David. The Giant Panda has long been a favourite of the public, at least partly on account of the fact that the species has an appealing baby-like cuteness that makes it seem to resemble a living teddy bear. The fact that it is usually depicted reclining peacefully eating bamboo, as opposed to hunting, also adds to its image of innocence.
Loans of Giant Pandas to American and Japanese zoos formed an important part of the diplomacy of the People's Republic of China in the 1970s as it marked some of the first cultural exchanges between the PRC and the West.
By the year 1984, however, pandas were no longer used as agents of diplomacy. Instead, China began to offer pandas to other nations only on 10-year loans. The standard loan terms include a fee of up to US$1,000,000 per year and a provision that any cubs born during the loan are the property of the People's Republic of China.
In 1998 a lawsuit filed by the WWF spurred the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to require U.S. zoos seeking to import pandas to ensure that half of the fee charged by China be channeled into conservation efforts for wild pandas and their habitat before the service will issue a permit allowing the pandas to be imported.
The name 'panda' as used in the West was originally applied to the Red Panda, to which it is distantly related. The shared name appears to derive from their common bamboo diet. Until its relation to the Red Panda was discovered in 1901, the Giant Panda was known as Mottled Bear (Ailuropus melanoleucus) or Parti-coloured Bear.
- National Zoo
- Zoo Atlanta
- San Diego Zoo
- Memphis Zoo
- Tiergarten Sch÷nbrunn (Vienna)
- Zoologischer Garten Berlin
- Pandas International, a panda conservation group
- AZA Panda Conservation Plan
- Jeroen Jacobs Panda Fan Page
- Alternative Names for Panda
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