1. Even though Pandas are actually omnivores, in the same family as the Polar Bear and the Grizzly Bear, they hardly eat any meat, in fact about 99% of their diet is vegetarian. They can eat up to 30kg of bamboo per day and spend most of the day eating. Bamboo is low in essential nutrients and pandas only digest about 20% of what they consume, which is why they eat so much.
2. Pandas may appear to be very friendly and cute but, like Grizzly bears, they are actually one of the more aggressive bear species when provoked. They are very territorial animals. Most aggressive encounters occur during the mating season.
3. Unlike other bears Pandas are mainly nocturnal creatures; because of this their eyes have pupils which are vertical slits that are similar to a cat’s eyes to help them see much better in the dark. All other bears have round eyes.
4. A Panda’s paws are just like that of any other bear but they also have an enlarged wrist bone that acts as a thumb to hold the bamboo as they eat.
5. Pandas are great climbers and their coniferous and mountainous surroundings mean that they can find shelter within trees or rocks rather than build their own den. They also migrate to warmer environments in the mountains when it gets too cold, pandas can’t build up a fat layer due to their diet which means Pandas are one of the few bear species that don’t need to hibernate.
6. Female pandas can only mate once a year when they are on heat for only a few days. Even though females produce 2 young cubs, they will usually abandon one of the cubs so they can concentrate on raising and protecting her one cub well. These two factors are thought to be part of the reason why the panda population is so small and is so difficult to increase.
7. Panda bears have a wide range of vocalisations and noises that they communicate with. The sounds they make range from barks and growls to honks and squeals, in fact it is of a similar vocal range to a dog. Most vocalisations occur when pandas are about to mate or fight. The tones of the calls also demonstrate the sex and size of the bear.
8. Scent markings are rubbed on trees as another form of communication and territorial marking. The panda has an unusual way of rubbing its scent onto trees, it stands on its front legs doing a handstand and rubs an acidic substance from its genital glands on the trees and rocks or sprays urine.
9. Despite their size Panda bear cubs are among the smallest newborn mammals in the world. They are born with pink, black and white fur-less skin, blind and completely helpless. They rely completely on their mother to survive. They only weigh about 100 – 200 grams when they are born, 900 times smaller than their mother.
10. Pandas have to sit or lie down when they eat so that they can use their front paws and “thumbs” to eat. They have extremely large molar teeth and very strong jaws because they need to bite and crush bamboo stalks to a pulp so they can digest it.