Panda bears, those cute creatures with the ringed eyes and fluffy coats, are one of the most beloved animals throughout the Western world, but particularly in America.
There are two types of pandas: the Giant Panda and the Red, or Lesser, Panda. A third type is the Quinling but this is actually a subspecies of the Giant Panda.
There is some debate about whether or not pandas actually belong to the bear family or are more properly classified with raccoons as they share characteristics of both.
Here are the main differences between these two types of pandas:
- Size – Giant Pandas are much larger than Red Pandas. Giant Pandas can reach around 350 pounds whereas Red Pandas are small animals, only weighing around 20 pounds.
- Colour – They are different colours – black and white compared to red.
- Diet – Giant Pandas almost exclusively eat bamboo whereas Red Pandas eat bamboo, other small plants, and even small rodents from time to time.
- Reproduction – Red Pandas are only actually fertile for one day each year. If they become pregnant then they give birth to two cubs, whereas Giant Pandas may give birth to one or two cubs but can only care for one.
- Endangered Status – both species are very endangered, although there are around 2 and a half times the numbers of Red Pandas in the wild compared to Giant Pandas.
The Giant Panda
The Giant Panda is the one people think of most often when they hear the name ‘panda bear’. Their colouring is the ubiquitous black and white so often portrayed in commercials and product labels.
The females give birth once yearly, usually producing two cubs in each litter. At birth, the cubs weigh about five ounces. They are blind and their fur is entirely white; it is not until a month later that they develop their black stripes.
The Giant Panda cub nurses from his mother until about the age of six months, becoming fully weaned at nine months and able to eat bamboo. At a year old, the cubs weigh 70 to 80 pounds. In another half year, the cub leaves his mother to live in the wild on his own, reaching maturity at five to seven years old.
Adult Giant Pandas generally range from three and a half to five feet tall but can weigh an astounding 350 pounds. They live to approximately the age of 25. Unlike other bears, Giant Pandas never hibernate. They are solitary animals.
Currently it is estimated that there only 600 to 1,000 Giant Pandas alive in the wild, with about 60 more kept in zoo captivity. Their numbers are threatened due to a low rate of reproduction, high infant mortality, and human encroachment on their native habitat.
The Red Panda
Also referred to as the Lesser Panda, the Red Panda more closely resembles a raccoon. It has a reddish brown coat and is much smaller than the Giant Panda, at about two feet in height and only six to 12 pounds in weight.
Just like the Giant Panda, the Red Panda is native to China and Tibet; however the Lesser Panda also inhabits areas of Burma, Nepal, and India. The Red Panda is a climber, spending most of its time in the tree tops. Its diet is composed of acorns and roots in addition to bamboo.
Panda bears are unusual mammals that have captured the hearts of many people across the world. It is important that we save their environment in order to save them.