Disappearing Giant Pandas – Field Note about Nature

Abstract:  Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you had to do something to help?

What do we see in nature?

For this Field Note, I had the chance to go to the Beijing Zoo to see the Giant Pandas there.  Even though Giant Pandas are bears, they eat bamboo plants exclusively.  Did you know that most bears eat mostly plants for food?  The Giant Panda at the zoo rolled around in a big pile of bamboo and ate the leaves right off the stick like a shishkabob!

o What does this creature or plant look like?

Giant Pandas are covered with big patches of black and white.  Not spots like a leopard, or stripes like a zebra, but more like blobs of black and white.  They are also super furry and look really cuddly.  I learned they aren’t at all, and lots of people have gotten hurt when they try to cuddle up to Giant Pandas in the wild.  They’re wild animals, and new things scare them, just like other wild animals.

When Giant Pandas are born they are tiny and have no fur.  They only weigh about four ounces; that’s only one-fourth of a pound!  That’s pretty small considering adult Giant Pandas weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.  That amount of size and weight gain would be like human babies ending up weighing 7200 pounds when they were adults!

o How did I feel when I saw it?

Actually, the enclosure they have for the Giant Pandas are pretty small.  I felt sad that the pandas didn’t have room to feel more free.  I thought about what it must be like for a Giant Panda to live in the wild.  The panda seemed pretty happy just sitting in the bamboo leaves chomping away, though.

o Where does it live?

The Giant Panda I saw lives in the Beijing Zoo.  There are two of them, but they don’t live together.  They live next to each other.  There was a third enclosure in the Panda House, but it was empty.  I don’t know if the Zoo was getting ready for another panda, or if there used to be one more panda.

o How does it use its environment to survive?

Giant Pandas are excellent climbers, and can scurry right up tall trees.  They often climb trees to find places to sleep at night.  Scientists don’t really know why pandas are black and white, but they think it might help them be camouflaged in the shadowy forests where they live.

o What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?

The number one danger to the Giant Panda is humans.  Giant Pandas are found only in China.  As more and more bamboo forest has been cleared for farming, the Giant Pandas’ habitat has shrunken drastically, and so have their numbers.  There are now only about 1,000 Giant Pandas in the wild left in the entire world.  In addition, there are about 140 pandas kept in breeding centers and zoos as well.  Giant Pandas are considered extremely endangered and are listed on the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Animals.


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