Recently the National Zoo near Washington, D.C. had a new arrival to its population. The Giant Panda, Mei Xiang gave birth to a bouncing baby 4.8 ounce, well the zoo officials don’t know, the sex will be determined within two or three weeks.
Its always a very special occasion when a panda gives birth adding to it’s population that has dwindled close to extinction in past years. Currently there are 1600 in the wild and more than 300 in zoos and breeding centers the majority of them in China. Traditionally indigenous to the lowlands of central China they now inhabit certain mountain ranges between 5,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level having been displaced by farming, deforestation and general development.
Living on a 99% diet of bamboo leaves, the do on occasion partake on a carnivorous diet.
Although very cute with their black and white markings, big ears and chunky body, they are bears and can get quite testy and dangerous as any other bear can. Males can weigh up to 250 lbs while females are no larger than a svelte 220 lbs.
Female pandas ovulate once a year for a short two to three day period so all those potential panda daddies have that year to get there game plan ready for when she is “in the mood”. This is one of the reasons that pandas are endangered because their slow rate of breeding hinders their speedy re-population from human or natural causes of mortality.
Their digestive system is much more similar to a carnivores animal rather then an herbivore so most what they eat is passed as waste. Because of this inefficient digestive system, pandas spend most of their days (10 to 16 hours a day) eating since all they eat is bamboo — 20 to 40 pounds of it a day. The rest of the time they spend sleeping and resting. Ah, the life of a panda.
Now there is excitement across the ocean in the UK. It seems that the zoo in Edinburgh has done hormone tests on the giant panda, Tian Tian giving positive signs that she might be pregnant. There is a good possibility that she might give birth within the next two weeks.
Credit must be given to all these zoos and breeding centers with their dedicated scientific staff in keeping these beautiful animals from becoming extinct. Man has started late in the conservation movement, but hopefully we can catch up to continue saving these and other animals that make up this planet we call earth.