The Giant Panda

 

The giant panda is a bear that lives in central China. It is special because of its black and white fur. Pandas belong to the most endangered species of our world. About 2000 pandas live in the wilderness, 300 live in various zoos around the world.

Recently, there have been campaigns in many countries to save the giant panda. It has been driven away from its natural habitat because of deforestation, intensive farming and the creation of new settlements.

The giant panda can reach a height of up to 1.5 metres and weigh up to 150 kg. Pandas have bodies like bears, but scientists do not know why they grow a black and white fur. The thick fur keeps them warm during the cold winter months and the white colour protects them from possible enemies in the snow-covered mountains in which they live.  Pandas have large teeth, which they need to eat bamboo, their basic food. The animals can eat up to 15 kg of bamboo a day. Because it is low in nutritional value it does not give pandas much energy to move around for longer periods of time. They spend most of the day roaming around and looking for food and water

Giant Panda in Hong Kong

A giant panda in Hong Kong-J. Patrick Fischer

Giant pandas can live up to 20 years in the wilderness and 30 years in zoos. They start reproducing between 4 and 8 years of age. Mothers carry their babies in their bodies for a period of 3 to 5 months. When panda cubs are born they are blind. They are extremely tiny, only about a thousandth the size of the mother. Like all mammals, they get their food from their mother, whom they stay with for one and a half to three years before being able to survive alone.

Pandas have a low birth rate. When a female gives birth to two pandas, only one normally survives. In her lifetime, a female may give birth to 5 to 8 cubs a year.  They are in danger of dying out completely because their living space is becoming smaller. Giant pandas have been hunted for centuries, mainly because of their soft fur.

Pandas have been an important species throughout history. They first became known in the western world during the middle of the 19th century. In the 1960s, the Chinese government realized it had to do something to protect the giant pandas. Since then they have set up 40 reserves in which the animals are protected. In the 1970s, pandas played a part in the opening of Communist China to the west. They were sold to zoos in other countries.

Today, about 45 pandas live in zoos outside China. The first one arrived in New York in 1937. Zoologists are putting millions of dollars into breeding the animals in captivity. When they get older they may be released again into their natural habitat.

Panda cub at birth

Panda cub at birth - Colegota 

 

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Words

  • bamboo= a tall tropical plant that is hollow inside
  • basic = necessary
  • birth rate = the number of babies based on the whole population
  • breed = to keep animals in order to produce new ones with special qualities
  • campaign = movement , actions that are carried out by people
  • captivity = here: kept in a cage
  • century = a period of a hundred years
  • completely =totally
  • creation = make something new
  • cub = baby animal
  • deforestation = cut or burn down trees in an area
  • drive away = here: to make them leave
  • endangered species = group of animals or plants that are in danger of dying out completely
  • enemy = not your friend; here: animals that want to hurt them
  • fur = the thick soft hair of an animal
  • government = people who rule a country
  • habitat = living area
  • height = how high something is
  • lifetime = during your whole life
  • mainly = mostly
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is small
  • nutritional value = substances in the food that help you stay healthy
  • opening = the beginning of …
  • period = time
  • protect = defend, guard, to keep safe from
  • realize = understand
  • recently =  a short time ago
  • release = set free
  • reproduce = to have babies
  • reserve = an area of land where plants and animals are protected
  • roam = wander around
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a laboratory
  • settlement = place where people build new houses and start to live
  • size = how big something is
  • species = group of animals or plants that are alike
  • survive = to stay alive
  • throughout = all of
  • tiny = very small
  • various = different
  • weigh = how heavy something is
  • wilderness = area of land that has never been developed or farmed
  • zoologist = scientist who studies animals and the way they behave