“Panda,” the name, might have been derived from poonya, the Nepalese word meaning “bamboo-eating animal” or “plant-eating animal.”
Giant Pandas are the only living beings able to eat bamboo and survive, even thrive, off it. There are many adaptations panda bears have which allow them to consume solely bamboo.
Panda Bear’s spend an average of 14 to 16 hours eating bamboo each day. That’s a life I wish to live, spending 15 hours a day eating, anyone else? In order to get enough of the nutrients needed for a panda bear to survive they must eat for most of the time they are awake. All this eating adds up to be around 25 to 30 pounds of bamboo consumed per day. Even though panda bears do not hibernate, the amount of bamboo they eat increases to around 100 pounds during the spring months.
Pandas have two sets of 42 teeth and a special lining on their throats, protecting them from bamboo splinters. Their jaw and check muscles are powerful enough to chew an aluminum dish into tiny pieces, giving them the ability to bite through thick stalks of bamboo. Humans have trouble cutting into these same stalks with axes, much less our mouths.
The giant panda has some hidden talents, much like humans, when it comes to bamboo. They can peel and eat a bamboo shoot all in 40 seconds. Pandas have an excellent sense of smell. They smell well enough to detect the best bamboo stalks in the dead of night. Also, their one wrist bone is modified, having evolved into a “thumb” which they use to hold bamboo stalks.
Unfortunately, bamboo has a flowering cycle every 30 to 120 years. After bamboo flowers the entire species dies, we call this bamboo dieback, and it takes anywhere from 10 to 15 years for the bamboo to grow back. In the past, pandas have migrated from area to area, but recently that is becoming increasing difficult. Humans are to blame, when aren’t we? Panda bears have lost a great portion of their habitat to humans for logging or agriculture or infrastructure purposes. China tried to fight this by creating a law in 1998 that would ban logging in the pandas’ habitat, but railroads and roadways are still being built through the pandas’ home. There are still instances of illegal logging, which needs to end. You can do your part by signing this petition.