Why Are Pandas Still Endangered?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

About a year ago there was some massive hype that giant pandas were taken off the endangered species list, but unfortunately, pandas are still very much endangered due to one main cause; their habitats are being lost due to human interference.

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That’s right folks, these adorable animals are losing their habitats because of us. Unlike many other animals, pandas only eat bamboo and have no other supplemental food, such as berries or even fish. Because of this, pandas are only adapted to live in forests and areas that provide them with bamboo. To learn more about pandas, their struggles with being endangered, and more about endangered species, check out this guide.

I am glad that the life of pandas is so dull by human standards, for our efforts at conservation have little moral value if we preserve creatures only as human ornaments; I shall be impressed when we show solicitude for warty toads and slithering worms. – Stephen Jay Gould

The Giant Panda

A giant panda. Image source: Flickr
Scientific Classification
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyUrsidae
GenusAiluropoda

Panda bears, pandas, or giant pandas are all the same animal and fall under the scientific name Ailuropoda melanoleuca, which quite literally means “black and white cat-foot”. Giant pandas are native to Southern and Central China. Pandas are very easily recognizable by the black patches that surround their eyes, ears, and sporadically around their body. If you are wondering why they are referred to as the “giant” panda it is to differentiate them from the Red Panda, which is actually unrelated to the Giant Panda. As mentioned above, pandas’ primary diet is bamboo but in captivity, they are fed honey and occasionally other shrubs and fruits.

Here are some really cool facts about pandas:

  • A pandas lifespan is 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity
  • Pandas have been endangered since 1990
  • The Giant Panda and the Red Panda share the same diet, habitat, and they are both endangered, however, they have zero relation whatsoever
    • The Red Panda is closely related to raccoons while the Giant Panda is in the bear family
  • Pandas are natural symbols are Yin and Yang, and many Chinese believe Pandas bring harmony and peace
  • An adult panda typically weighs between 200 and 300 pounds
  • When standing, a Panda is about 5 feet tall
    • When on all 4s, Pandas are typically 3 feet tall
  • Speaking of standing Pandas, Pandas are capable of standing but rarely do it because their bodies are so heavy that their bones have a difficult time supporting their weight
    • Their bones are different than other animals in that they cannot support their full weight while standing up
  • Scientists believe that Pandas have roamed the Earth for about 3 million years
  • If you’re curious how Pandas don’t get splinters from eating bamboo, their throats have a special lining that actually prevents them from getting hurt from bamboo
  • There is only 1 species of Panda
  • Pandas eat, on average, 30 pounds of bamboo a day
  • Unlike other bears, Pandas do not hibernate because they simply can’t afford to go without bamboo for that long
    • Their bamboo diet does not enable them to build up fat reserves like other bears are able to
  • When Pandas are born the spots around their eyes are round, but as they age the spot becomes elongated
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Pandas On The Endangered Species List

Safeguarding our common home is not only essential to protecting endangered species and preserving old-growth forests, it is also paramount to ending poverty, fighting injustice, and protecting the long-term survival of humankind and of our faith. – Catherine Cortez-Masto

A protected area where endangered species are able to nest to continue the species. Image source: Sastha Know Your Ledge

Before we delve into Giant Pandas and their endangered species status, it is important to quickly go over what being categorized as an endangered species means, as well as briefly go over some of the other categories as well. The Internation Union for Conservation of Nature (also called the IUCN) Red List is the one who categorizes species on a list based on the likelihood of their extinction. For a species to be labeled as “endangered“, it means they are very likely to become extinct and it is the second most severe conservation status. Here is the complete Red List:

  • IUCN Red List
    • Extinct (EX)
      • No individuals of the species remain
    • Extinct in the wild (EW)
      • There are individuals alive in captivity, but none are alive in the wild
    • Critically Endangered (CR)
      • There is an extremely high likelihood of extinction in the immediate future
    • Endangered (EN)
      • High risk of extinction in the near future
      • For our purposes, this is the category where the Giant Panda is located
    • Vulnerable (VU)
      • High risk of endangerment in the somewhat near future
    • Near Threatened (NT)
      • May possibly be threated at some point in the near future
    • Least Concern (LC)
      • No threat to the species or its survival

If you are at all curious about a complete list of animals that is on the endangered species list you can check out the World Wildlife’s website (can be found here) where they have a complete list of the endangered species on the Red List. You might also notice that the WWF’s logo is a Panda, another small tie to the great animal that has captured so many hearts all over the world.

Unfortunately for the Panda, these adorable animals are still very much in trouble because they keep losing their environment thanks to human interference. Like we said before, humans are taking more and more of the Panda’s habitat and are making it difficult for them to survive. The problems that Pandas have is perpetuated by the fact that Pandas really don’t eat anything else other than bamboo. This means that they are confined to staying in one location instead of being able to flee elsewhere to adapt. Luckily, there have been many great strides in the past several years to conserve this animal’s habitat to try to protect the Panda as much as possible. Hopefully, at some point soon, Pandas will be removed from the endangered species list and they can start to regrow their numbers back in the wild without the concern of human interference.

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Opinions expressed are solely the authors and do not express the views or opinions of Science Trends nor the author's institution.
Cite this article as:
Kate Broome, MA. Why Are Pandas Still Endangered?, Science Trends, 2018. Available at:
http://doi.org/10.31988/SciTrends.22595
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

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