I decided to add a new weekly feature to my blog called Zoosday Tuesday. This feature has absolutely nothing to do with writing. But since my love of animals was first inspired by my volunteer work at the zoo and in turn inspired my writing, I decided to share some of the wonderful things I've learned about animals as a volunteer docent at the Kansas City Zoo.
***The opinions shared on this blog are mine alone, and are not endorsed by the Kanas City Zoo.
The Giant Panda
To follow up last weeks post about the Red Panda, I'm going to talk about the Giant Panda. We don't have Giant Pandas at the Kansas City Zoo, only four zoos in the US are home to Giant Pandas, (the National Zoo in DC, Zoo Atlanta, The Memphis Zoo, and The San Diego Zoo.)
Giant Pandas live exclusively in China and are considered a Chinese national treasure. But there are believed to be only about 1700 left in the wild. The primary threat to these bears is overpopulation and deforestation. But the Giant Panda also has a very difficult reproductive cycle. Females only come into estrus for about 24 hours every year. If the males are unable to locate the females in that short time frame, they won't have a cub that year. (Also because they get so little practice, they often are unsuccessful when they do get together).
Researchers around the world have been working for decades to find the best ways to breed Giant Panda's in captivity. They use artificial insemintaion, ultrasound, and hand-rearing when necessary to help produce cubs. Only one panda cub was born in the US this year. You can see footage of the birth, and pictures of the tiny, hairless cub at : http://www.zooatlanta.org/home/animals/mammals/giant_panda/giant_panda_cub_gallery
These cuties are another bamboo eating species, and they have to eat a lot of the low nutrition, high cellulous plant to get enough nourishment. (Ulike the Red Panda who eats mostly the leaves, these pandas eat everything including the culm and stalk.)
They have the smallest mother to cub ratio at birth of any placental mammal. A 225lb female panda gives birth to a 4oz cub. She doesn't eat, drink, or defecate for up to a week after birth, so she can hold the cub constantly to keep it warm.
Have you ever seen a Giant Panda in a zoo? If you have any questions about Giant Pandas, feel free to ask.