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Endangered Species - Panda Bear, the Facts in Black and White

BY DIONNE LISTER

Two endearing black eyes peer out of black tear-drop markings. A huge, fluffy white face is adorned by two black, Mickey Mouse ears, which perch atop its large head - who wouldn’t fall in love with a cuddly panda bear. Despite enough cuteness to reduce a busload of hardened tourists to pandemonium and delightful exclamations of, "How cute, can I give it a hug?" the animal remains on the endangered species list.

The Panda Bear is located at many zoos across the world. Their unique markings, and ability to resemble a giant teddy bear, make them one of the largest attractions - an animal favourite as it were. However, in the wild they only survive in the mountainous southwest areas of China.

The Panda’s diet, in the wild, mainly consists of bamboo - its leaves, shoots, stalks and all, although they occasionally eat roots, tubers and bark. Pandas grow to be up to six feet long and weigh between 150 - 250 pounds. Because of their size, pandas don’t have any real predators except for the one universal to many animals’ decline - us.

Panda cubs are so cute I find it impossible to look at a picture of one without wanting to squeal. They are born blind and don’t gain sight until about six weeks of age. They nurse with their mother for about 10 months, similar to a human baby, then go straight to bamboo. One of the dangers of having such a big mother is that the cubs are sometimes inadvertently squashed to death when the mother rolls over in her sleep.

The panda adds much to it’s home country, bringing in tourist dollars and it has been the reason many hectares of natural habitat has been protected, ensuring the survival of a biodiversity of plants in the area in which it lives. The Chinese government has set aside large areas where their habitat is protected, however road and rail corridors fragment these areas, making it difficult for the panda to travel safely to find a mate or new supplies of bamboo. Poachers are another threat to this adored member of the bear family.

The WWF conservation organisation has the panda as its official symbol and is constantly fighting for this beloved animal by lobbying for additional habitat to be protected and the policing of poachers. You can visit their website to find out more.

With only approximately 1,600 of these animals left in the wild, our children’s children may only be able see them in zoos one day. Let’s hope their cuteness allows them to grab the attention they need to survive past this century. If you would like to see them in their natural habitat check out the photography holiday WWF is organising to China - it offers you a wonderful experience whilst allowing you to support their conservation endeavours. So pander to your desires and grab your camera -  a unique opportunity awaits.

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