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The Gap Year Blog

10 Fun Facts About Pandas

12 Feb 2016 15:15 PM

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Todorov.patar.p

Edited with permission by Frontier


We all love pandas. Blame it on their unbelievably adorable chubby faces – or the ability to relate to their excessive eating habits – but the world loves pandas. Surprisingly, however, most people write pandas off as disappointingly lethargic, bamboo-eating bears. Admittedly, that’s kind of true, but there’s a lot more to pandas than their affinity for sleeping and eating. Check out these ten facts below to change your perspective on the panda!

1. Pandas have been an important and traditional symbol of peace and balance in China for many years.

Due to their colouring, pandas are often tied to the concept of Ying and Yang. As such, pandas are considered to be Chinese national treasures and share a long and rich cultural history with China.   

2. Pandas spend 14-16 hours (58%-67%) of each day eating bamboo!

No surprise here, pandas really love bamboo – their diets are 99% bamboo! In case you’re curious, for the rest of the day, pandas rest amongst their food and sleep – talk about living the life!

3. Speaking of bamboo, pandas have six fingers on each paw – including an opposable “thumb” to help them eat bamboo more quickly and efficiently.

More an extended wrist bone than a “thumb”, pandas use this extra appendage to help them hold and peel bamboo while they eat.

Photo credit: Flickr | George Lu

4. A panda cannot hibernate due to the lack of fat reserve from its bamboo diet.

The downside of the selective panda diet is that bamboo doesn’t quite provide the nutrients for pandas to hibernate. During the winter, pandas migrate to lower areas with warmer climates.

5. Pandas love to be loners.

Other than mating, pandas are solitary creatures (they definitely enjoy their own company!) and like to be entirely alone. In fact, they have a particular sense of smell that alerts them to when another panda is nearby, so they can anticipate and avoid them ahead of time!

6. Panda bears love to climb!

Despite their chubby appearances, pandas are very capable (and quick!) at climbing trees. They have sharp fingernails that allow them to gain traction by pressing into tree trunks and branches. Don’t judge a book by its cover!

7. When panda cubs are born, they are so tiny that they are equivalent to 1/900th of their mother’s size!

Newborn panda cubs are only slightly bigger than a stick of butter whereas their mothers’ can weigh around 80kg! Panda cubs are also pink, hairless and blind upon birth.

Photo credit: flickr / Marc Blickle

8. Mother pandas cannot take care of twins.

Unfortunately, in the unusual situation in which a female panda gives birth to twins, she will only have enough energy to nurse one cub. Sadly, she will neglect or leave the weaker cub/twin to die. Good news is that in captivity, zookeepers will step in and help raise the forgotten cub!

9. Pandas live longer in captivity than in the wild.

Although most animals in captivity typically have shorter lifespans than their ‘wild’ counterparts, this is not the case with pandas. ‘Wild’ pandas only live for around 15-25 years whilst pandas in captivity can live upwards of 30 years! 

10. Pandas are at risk of becoming extinct.

The panda has been listed as Endangered for 25 years – only around 1,600 pandas remain in the wild whilst more than 300 live in captivity.


If you want to find out how you can help this iconic species then check out our China Panda Breeding Centre Project!

By Ciara Gaffney

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!