Why Do Pandas Eat Bamboo? What Else Do They Eat?

Joan Agie
Oct 06, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Oct 11, 2021
Giant panda wildlife animal.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.3 Min

Wild pandas are known for eating different species of bamboo. 

Almost 20 species of bamboo form a large part of their diet, but black bamboo, arrow bamboo, and water bamboo are their favorite ones. They also eat tropical woody bamboos because they are abundant in the forest of tropical regions where they live.

As per research, pandas are able to consume only around 17 % of what they consume in a natural way. Giant pandas eat almost every part of the bamboo, but the leaves are their favorite.

They love to munch bamboo leaves. Pandas living in a family with cubs like to laze around the entire day.

They either eat bamboo or sleep peacefully but still are one of the most loved animals on the earth. A wild pandas diet highly depends on the foods which are easily available in their habitat. Since they mostly live in rainforests, they rely on bamboo to fill their big tummies.

Do you want to know what giant pandas eat? Check out the rest of the article to know.

If you wish to know more about curious things that happen in the animal world, you may also check out our when do bears hibernateand when do deer give birth pages.

What else do pandas eat?

Giant pandas, which are probably the cutest species of bears in the world, live in rainforests and eat bamboo owing to their abundance. They also love to eat meat, but they have to struggle to get that.

This might be news to you, but as per reports, the ancestors of giant panda bears used to be omnivores. Pandas like to relax a lot, and they do not move their body much, so they eat what is easily available for them.

Baby pandas, or the cubs, get their food from their mothers. Generally, all animals in the forest get their food from hunting.

But pandas are considered to be very bad hunters, so they can not satisfy their tummies with hunting. Bamboos are abundant in the forest and available for the whole year, so pandas start to rely on a bamboo diet as they do not have to search a lot for food.

Also, choosing bamboo as the main diet is a very smart choice for pandas because not many animals survive on bamboo so this also cuts their competition.

There are only a few animals that survive on bamboo, which include bamboo lemurs, bamboo rats, and golden monkeys. Pandas do not have to fight for their food, like many other wild animals in the forest.

How do pandas eat bamboo?

Pandas just grab bamboo naturally and peel off the upper layer, just like you remove the wrapper of your chocolate. They do this because the uppermost layer is a bit hard to chew. After removing the hard part, they just put the bamboo in their mouth and chew it.

Despite having carnivorous ancestors, pandas have evolved to eat plants. So now their body is not like other vegetarians which have a good digestive system to digest the plants.

A panda’s digestive system can digest meat in a better way than it does the plants. But with this evolution of eating habits, pandas have also evolved a sixth finger to grab the bamboo properly. This sixth finger helps them to hold bamboo more effectively and eat in a better way.

Also, their teeth have evolved to chew plants. Pandas have approximately 20 teeth in their mouth which helps them to chew bamboo and other plants to make them digest bamboo quite easily.

Why do pandas eat bamboo and not meat?

A giant panda’s diet is mainly bamboo, but they also eat some other things which form the remaining part of their diet. You may find this weird, but pandas can not digest bamboo properly and are not rich in nutrients.

They only get 20 % of the required nutrients from a bamboo meal so they have to search for other food items to survive. They occasionally hunt rodents to feed themselves.

Like many other wild animals, giant pandas are also omnivorous in terms of their diet. They also eat meat when it is easily available.

If you offer meat to a giant panda bear then that will be the happiest day of its life because pandas love meat more than bamboo. In fact, like feral cats, they derive most of their energy from protein intake.

Other than bamboo and meat, pandas also eat some other foods like honey, vines, flowers, corn, and fruits. Apple is the favorite fruit for every panda.

If you remember ‘Po’ from the movie ‘Kung Fu Panda’, you know that he eats and loves dumplings a lot. And yes it is true, giant pandas love this kind of food also. They also love to eat cakes. So you can offer a cake to a giant panda bear on its birthday to make it happy.

How much bamboo do pandas eat a day?

Whenever you see a panda, it is most probably eating bamboo. They spend half of their day eating. As mentioned above, bamboo is not sufficient to fulfill a giant panda’s nutritional requirements, so they have to eat a lot to fill their big tummies. For this, they need a lot of time to eat.

Research shows that a giant panda spends approximately 10-16 hours every day eating bamboo. They eat almost an average of 77.16 lb (35 kg) of bamboo a day.

They spend half the day eating and the other half either sleeping or having fun with their friends. Giant pandas consume so much bamboo but still cannot get the required amount of nutrients, which affects their behavior.

You need the energy to work and play, so do pandas and other animals. Giant pandas can not get much energy from bamboo, so this makes them lazy.

They eat bamboo and then take a nap of about two to four hours, then they get up and start to eat bamboo again. This is a daily routine and life of a panda.

Pandas sleep so much because they eat a lot, and their body needs some time to digest the food. So if you see a panda, do not disturb him, let him eat his food, and sleep in peace.

A panda eats a large bamboo stalk.

Is bamboo good for giant pandas?

You may find it slightly weird, but according to the research done by scientists, bamboo is not a good diet for giant pandas. A panda’s digestive system is not meant for plants.

By nature they are carnivores and their gut has trouble digesting plants. The giant panda body is made to digest meat with gut microbes present in their body resembling those found in carnivores and omnivores.

Although they are evolved into herbivores by changing their dieting habits and quite like the taste of bamboo, bamboos do not have rich nutritional value to make a giant panda bear survive. They might feel that their tummies are full but they lack nutrients and the sign for this shows in their behavior.

They are not very active because they have to eat the whole day to meet nutritional needs.

An animal should eat what it could digest and have a good nutritional value. That’s why your mom gives you a variety of food items in your diet so you get the energy to play and learn.

Is it good for a panda to eat and sleep all day?

Eating and sleeping all day is not good for any animal on this planet. Every animal should do some activity to digest the food and utilize the energy. For pandas too, it is harmful to their bodies to just eat and rest the entire day. In fact, their entire life they do nothing but eat and relax.

Giant pandas may look cute while eating bamboo and doing nothing, but it is not good for their big chubby bodies.

Pandas may love to eat bamboo and have evolved their bodies to adapt to the bamboo diet, but because of this nutrition-less diet, they have to eat the whole day and still can not get the energy required to move their bodies to cover a certain distance.

Bamboo is not good food for the big bodies of giant pandas and this is making them physically weak as compared to wild animals.

Being wild animals, pandas are supposed to hunt their food, but their eating habits do not allow them to hunt because of low energy levels.

What are the effects of humans on pandas?

Humans are responsible for any adverse effects on natural wildlife. Many wild animals lost their habitat because of many reasons, and human civilization is one of them. Human civilization has many adverse effects on the habitat of pandas also.

Humans need land to live, to make houses, to practice farming, and many more other activities. When humans clear the land by cutting down trees, this leads to the loss of habitat for pandas.

Pandas are included in the list of endangered species because there are only about 1600 wild pandas left in the world.

The reason for this decrease in the population of wild pandas is due to many reasons, and habitat loss is one of them. The habitats of pandas are cleared for many reasons of human importance, which include agriculture, infrastructure, multi-purpose projects, and products like timber, fuelwood, food.

Why are pandas only black and white in color?

Have you ever wondered why pandas are not like other bears, why they are black and white? Well, the black and white color of pandas is because of genetic modifications. 

Pandas are black and white to camouflage in different types of environments. The white color helps them to hide in snowy areas and the black color helps to hide in the shady regions.

This kind of color adaptation helps pandas survive in diverse environments. Also, because of their black and white appearance, they resemble the Chinese symbol of yin yang, and this makes them the most loved animals in China. And also, the most number of pandas are found in China, maybe because of this appearance.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do pandas eat bamboo, then why not take a look at when do elk shed their antlers or Giant panda facts?

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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