Native to the mountain forests of southwest China, the giant panda is one of the most beloved animals in the world.
Giant pandas are identified by their distinctive black and white coloring. Their ears, muzzle, eyes, shoulders and legs are black while the rest of their body is white. Their thick hair keeps them warm in the cool, wet mountain zones.
One of the interesting evolutionary traits of the panda is their protruding wrist bone that acts like a thumb. This helps the pandas hold bamboo while they munch on it with their strong molar teeth. Bamboo makes up nearly the entire diet of the panda.
Pandas do not roar like other bears.
One the main reasons that panda populations have declined is habitat destruction which leads to food shortages. Pandas feed on several varieties of bamboo that bloom at different times of the year.
If one type of bamboo is destroyed by development, it can leave the pandas with nothing to eat during the time it normally blooms, increasing the risk of starvation.
To combat this issue, the Chinese government has actively worked to restore and protect bamboo habitat, and these measures have shown positive results.
Giant pandas are no longer classified as 'endangered'. They've been downgraded to 'vulnerable' on the global list of species at risk of extinction after their population increased by 17% in a decade. It shows that conservation efforts are working and provides hope for the world's other threatened wildlife.