The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, literally meaning “cat-foot black-and-white”) is a bear native to central-western and southwestern China. The Giant Panda was previously thought to be a member of the Procyonidae (raccoon) family. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though belonging to the order Carnivora, the Giant Panda has a diet which is 99% bamboo. The Giant Panda may eat other foods such as honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, and bananas when available.
The Giant Panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan, but also in the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Due to farming, forest clearing, and other development, the Giant Panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived.
The Giant Panda is a conservation reliant endangered species. According to the latest report, China has 239 Giant Pandas in captivity and another 27 living outside the country. It also estimated that around 1,590 pandas are currently living in the wild.However, a 2006 study, via DNA analysis, estimated that there might be as many as 2,000 to 3,000 Giant Pandas in the wild. Though reports show that the numbers of wild pandas are on the rise, the International Union for Conservation of Nature believes there is not enough certainty to remove the Giant Panda from the endangered animal list.
While the dragon has historically served as China’s national emblem, in recent decades the Giant Panda has also served as an emblem for the country. Its image appears on a large number of modern Chinese commemorative silver, gold, and platinum coins. Though the Giant Panda is often assumed to be docile, it has been known to attack humans, presumably out of irritation rather than predatory behavior.