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Giant Pandas - All Things You Want to Know

  • Weight:Up to 150 kg (330 lb)
  • Diet: 99% bamboo
  • Life Span: 15–20 years in the wild
  • The Number: 1,500–3,000 in the wild.
  • Size:75 cm (2½ ft) tall, 1½ m (5 ft) long

Increasingly used as the emblem of China, the cuddly and lovable giant panda lives nowhere else in the world outside captivity. The giant panda is the WWF logo and is known as ’national treasure‘ in China.

A Very Endangered Species — less than 2,000 in the wild

According to the census of 2014, there are only 1,864 giant pandas alive in the wild. It is one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world, thus the giant panda was selected and used as the symbol of the WWF since its formation in 1861.

The Size of a Giant Panda

A little smaller than an American black bear, a wild giant panda typically stands 75 centimeters (2½ feet) tall and 1.5 meters (5 feet) long. A wild panda typically weighs about 60–73 kg (132–160 lb), with the largest recorded 110 kg (240 lb). Males are about 1/6 larger than females. Pandas in captivity are bigger, and can weigh up to 150 kg (330 lb).

A new-born baby panda weighs only about 100g (0.2 lb), about 1/900 of its mother’s weight. Know how big, tall and heavy are pandas by large and clear infographics

Giant Pandas’ Lifestyle — low stress and solitude

Giant pandas spend most of their time eating, resting, or seeking food. They are alone most of the time. Males and females only meet during the breeding season in spring.

Giant pandas prefer shallow slopes and solitary living. They use scent markers to avoid one another. Read more on giant panda's interesting behavior.

Where Do Giant Pandas Live?

Giant pandas live in large bamboo forests on humid and relatively high mountain slopes — about 1,200 to 3,100 meters (4,000 to 10,000 feet) above sea level.

Giant pandas were once widespread across central, southern, and eastern China, and China’s neighboring countries of Myanmar and northern Vietnam. However, their habitat has shrunk to a few patches in western central China, due to China’s farming and logging practices.

Currently, giant Pandas mainly live in the Qin Mountains in Shaanxi Province, and the Min Mountains in Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Read more details on How giant pandas' habitat shrunk to isolated patches.

Their Food — 99% bamboo

Giant panda eaiting bamboo

99% of giant pandas’ food is the tender stems, shoots, and leaves of bamboo. Because bamboo is low in nutrition, one giant panda needs to eat about 12 to 38 kg (26–84 lb) of bamboo a day, up to 40% of its own weight. Giant pandas spend as long as 14 hours eating a day.

1% of their food consists of other plants, even meats. Wild giant pandas eat grasses, wild fruits, insects, even small animals if they can catch them.

Giant Panda Summary Facts

  • Chinese: ‘big-bear-cat’ (大熊猫 dàxióngmāo /dah-sshyong-maow/)
  • Class: mammal (mammalia)
  • Order: carnivore (carnivora)
  • Family: bear (ursidae)
  • Genus: cat-foot (Ailuropoda)
  • Species: black-and-white (melanoleuca)
  • Size: up to 0.75m tall, 1.5m long (2.5 ft tall, 5 ft long)
  • Weight: up to 150 kg (330 lb)
  • Life span: 15 to 20 years in the wild (up to 30 years in captivity)
  • Reproduction: one cub per two years; mating in spring, born late summer.

Also see 10 Interesting Facts on Giant Pandas.

Giant panda infographic

Getting Close to Giant Pandas

Seeing Pandas Only

Many travelers make their trips to China for the giant pandas. There are many places in China where you can see giant pandas but the best places are around Chengdu in Sichuan Province, “the giant pandas’ home town”.

Holding Pandas or Volunteer Programs

Holding a panda

If you want to have more close contact with a giant panda, such as holding a giant panda or joining in a giant panda volunteer program to take care of the pandas, you need to travel to Chengdu. Dujiangyan Base close to Chengdu is the only place that provides this service, due to canine distemper precautions at other bases (May 2015).

Tracking Pandas in the Wild

The place travelers are most likely to see a giant panda in the wild is Foping Nature Reserve in Shaanxi Province, but the reserve is currently closed to travelers. There is no information available on when or whether it will open in the future. We will update our site when we have further information.

Our Most Popular China Panda Tours

Our travel advisors can also help you tailor-make a tour according to your requirements.