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Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) Fact Sheet: Summary

Update in Progress

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Some of the information in this fact sheet, like a panda, has become fuzzy. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is working to bring you an updated version of the Giant Panda Fact Sheet with additional science and conservation information. Thanks for your patience, as we quietly leaf through the research literature.

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Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) Fact Sheet

Giant Pandas in the snow

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Describer (Date): David 1869

Kingdon: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Sub-family: Ailuropodinae

Genus: Ailuropoda

Species: Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Body Length: 1,200-1,500 mm (4-5 ft)

Tail Length: 127 mm (5 in)

Weight: 75-160 kg (165-353 lbs)

Pelage: Thick & woolly; white with black eye patches, ears, legs and band across back (skin is pigmented).

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Restricted; found in 6 small areas of Sichuan,Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces of Southwest China.

Habitat: Old growth montane forests with dense bamboo stands.

IUCN Status
Vulnerable (2016 assessment)

CITES Appendix
Appendix I

Population Estimates: approximately 1,040 mature individuals; approximately 1,800-2,060 individuals total

Locomotion: Live on the ground but can climb trees well.

Activity Cycle: Active 14.2 hrs/day (dawn and dusk), with almost all of that time spent eating; do not hibernate.

Social Groups: Solitary except from March to May for breeding.

Communication: Scent-marking, vocalizations.

Diet: Over 99% bamboo leaves, stems, and shoots; 1% opportunistic small rodents, carrion, other plants.

Unattended young susceptible to yellow-throated martin, weasel and golden cat. Adults protected, poaching no longer a major threat.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: Similar for both sexes: 4.5-6.5 years.

Gestation: 84-184 days (variation due to delayed implantation).

Litter Size: 1 or 2 (very rarely 3). Usually only one is raised in wild.

Birth Weight: 85-140 grams (extremely low neonatal/maternal weight ratio).

Age at Weaning: Fully weaned at 18-24 months in wild.

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: not reported
Managed care: no AZA estimates

Feature Facts:

  • Giant pandas belong to the bear family, but unlike other bears, pandas eat  mostly plants, bamboo in particular.
  • Recent sequencing of the panda genome reveals that genes for tasting meat were lost in the last 4 million years as they evolved their vegetarian habits.
  • Expected to need conservation interventions for the foreseeable future.
  • Two pandas visited San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance in 1987-1988 for 200 days.
  • In 1996 a 12-year breeding loan was begun with Male Shi Shi (wild-born in Sichuan) and female Bai Yun (born in the Wolong Conservation Center and raised by her mother) arriving on 9/10/96.
  • Their first offspring, a female, Hua Mei, was born 8/21/99 via artificial insemination. Hua Mei returned to China in 2004 at the age of five. She gave birth to twins late that year.
  • In 2012, Bai Yun gave birth to a son, Xiao Liwu at the San Diego Zoo.

About This Fact Sheet

© San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance 2001-2018. Created in 2001, minor revisions in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017. Population estimate updated Sep 2018.

How to cite: Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) Fact Sheet. c2001-2018. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. giantpanda. (note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2014 Sep 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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