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1. Taste preferences
A. A panda’s daily diet consists almost entirely of the leaves, stems and shoots of various bamboo species. Bamboo contains very little nutritional value so pandas must eat up to 38 kg every day to meet their energy needs. But they do branch out, with about 1% of their diet comprising other plants and even meat. While they are almost entirely vegetarian, pandas will sometimes hunt for small rodents. Indeed, as members of the bear family, giant pandas possess the digestive system of a carnivore, although they have evolved to depend almost entirely on bamboo.
B. Where do pandas live? Pandas are native to the temperate-zone bamboo forests of central China. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development have pushed them into the mountains of southwestern China, mostly in the Sichuan Province. This is due to the fact that China’s human population has been steadily growing and is now the largest in the world. Pandas are beloved everywhere and their images often appear on many gift and novelty items.
C. Pandas are said to have a predilection for copper and iron. They really seem to enjoy licking every scrap of food from their metal bowls, even turning the bowl in their two dexterous paws. An ancient reputation as a licker and eater of copper and iron came from a liking for dishes or cooking pots in dwellings of Chinese peasants. Another strange behaviour, but with a modern twist, we witnessed, is them enjoying «fruit lollipops» — fruit frozen in a metal dish of water to cool them down in the heat of summer in Chengdu.
D. Giant pandas are born tiny (about 100 g), blind, white and helpless. The mother cradles her tiny cub in a paw and doesn’t leave the den for several days after giving birth, even to drink. Cubs soon develop soft gray fur, which becomes coarser and develops its black and white pattern in a month. The new born panda doesn’t move from the den in the first two months. After three months baby pandas begin to crawl. Cubs start to eat bamboo around six months and are fully weaned at nine months.
E. The first threat to the panda was poaching for food and/ or the soft fur. Poaching existed since ancient times, but the rate of poaching increased after the animal became known around the world. Although poaching is no longer a major threat to pandas it did cause a significant drop in the population. The greatest modern threat to the species is the loss of their habitat. Since the middle of the last century China has undergone a population boom and much of the traditional habitat of the animal has been destroyed.
F. This peaceful creature with a distinctive black and white coat is adored by the world and considered a national treasure in China. The bear also has a special significance for WWF. One of the reasons why WWF chose panda as its logo was to save cost! Sir Peter Scott, one of the founders, said, “We wanted an animal that is beautiful, is endangered, and one loved by many people in the world for its appealing qualities. We also wanted an animal that had an impact in black and white to save money on printing costs.”
G. Pandas have the most specialized diet of any of the bears. Their diet is almost exclusively two species of bamboo. Bamboo plants only grow in a few places. This limits the range of pandas tremendously. Bamboo species go through periodic die-off s after they flower. Most plants in an area die-off at the same time. When this happened in the past, pandas would migrate to another area where the bamboo was still flourishing. However, this option is not always available. This leads to periodic starvations among panda populations.