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Panda bears: Cuddly, or Dangerous?

Panda bears are more than lazy, adorable, little fluff balls (although sometimes that’s hard to believe). Wait... are they? Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting giant panda facts, and explore their everyday lives.

Giant pandas live up to an estimated 20 years in the wild, and about 30 in human care. They can grow up to 6 feet long, with the females usually being smaller in size. Panda bears once lived in lowland areas, but the clearing of forests for farming and other developments have forced them to settle in the broadleaf and coniferous forests of the mountain ranges of South Central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces.

Newborn cubs are born weighing 3-5 ounces (about the size of a stick of butter!). Believe it or not, that’s 1/900th the size of their mother. They are blind at birth, and don’t open their eyes for 6-8 weeks. They are immobile until they’re 3 months old. Apart from marsupials, giant panda babies are the smallest mammal newborns relative to their mother’s size.

A panda’s diet consists almost completely of bamboo, making up 99% percent of their diet. Although it is the main course for pandas, it is low in protein and high in fiber. In order for them to get enough nutrients from this, they have to eat 20-40 pounds of bamboo each day.

Though the giant panda’s conservation status has recently been moved from Endangered to Vulnerable, they are still facing threats from human development. They have already been forced to move due to human encroachment, limiting their access to bamboo. In addition, climate change threatens to eradicate more than ⅓ of their precious food source’s habitat.

Many people believe them to be cute and cuddly, but panda bears can be as dangerous as any other bear. Maybe pandas are lazy, bamboo eating, adorable, start off little fluff balls when humans leave them alone, but they’re not afraid to defend themselves if threatened. While they will generally stay clear of people, they can’t help people coming near them. As long as you respect them and their space, you won’t be in danger from these beautiful creatures. Check out the panda cam from the Smithsonian's National Zoo to watch the pandas live!

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