How Much Bamboo Does A Panda Eat? What Else Do They Eat? | Kidadl


How Much Bamboo Does A Panda Eat? What Else Do They Eat?

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You must have seen a fluffy black and white-colored giant panda eating a bamboo stalk in a picture or in real life.

Did you wonder how much this big furry animal can eat every day? Or if it eats anything else other than bamboo?

The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is loved by many across the world due to its furry body, big paws, and black-colored eye patches. One cannot imagine a giant panda without it holding its bamboo stalk. Bamboo is a woody grass that is consumed in bulk every day by a giant panda. It constitutes 99% of the diet of a giant panda. The giant panda's charm is mainly how different it is from all other animals, but a part of what makes it unique is also its love for bamboo. A giant panda can easily eat more than 84 lb (38.1 kg) within 24 hours. Read on to learn more about the love a panda has for bamboo!

If you enjoy this article, why not also read about why do pandas eat bamboo and do polar bears live in Antartica here on Kidadl?

How much bamboo does a panda eat in a day?

Bamboo constitutes 99% of the giant panda diet. Giant pandas can easily consume 22-33 lb (10-15 kg) of bamboo in a single day in the wild. Interestingly, a panda can devour bamboo that weighs more than its body weight in a fortnight!

A giant pandas' diet includes almost all parts of the bamboo. The giant panda eats as many as 20 species of it. Some species it eats are black bamboo, water bamboo, and arrow bamboo. Pandas prefer eating shoots, leaves, and roots of these bamboo species. Various parts and species are eaten by pandas according to the season. The main diet in winter constitutes roots, but they enjoy eating shoots in summer and spring, and leaves in autumn. As the bamboo that pandas eat has not a lot of nutritional value, they must eat 50-88.1 lb (23-40 kg) every day so that they can produce sufficient energy. Giant pandas have been observed to spend their time foraging and eating for more than 10 hours in a single day in the wild as they have a short gut. Frequent eating ensures that they can produce the required amount of energy. Pandas in captivity are fed nutritional food and thus, they do not spend much time foraging and eating as compared to pandas in the wild that are continually foraging and eating. Pandas in captivity can be seen sleeping most of the time.

Why does the panda only eat bamboo?

Bamboo is a staple in the diet of pandas. Although giant pandas devour many other food items as well occasionally, bamboo makes up 99% of their diet and remains their main food. The main reason why giant pandas eat bamboo so religiously is that bamboo is very easy for giant pandas to obtain from the wild year round. Occasionally, a giant panda eats eggs, fish, or small rodents. Pandas in captivity are provided vegetables, apples, and rice, but still prefer to consume their beloved bamboo. Bamboo constitutes about 75% of the diet of a captive panda!

The giant panda consumes a lot of plant material even though it is supposed to be a carnivore. Ancestors of present-day giant pandas fed mainly upon meat. Giant pandas share the same family as a bear and thus are omnivores. They possess canine teeth and have a digestive system of a carnivore animal. Evolution has caused them to prefer eating bamboo but they are still categorized as a carnivore! It is suggested by research that the environment eliminated most prey of predecessors of giant pandas approximately seven million years ago causing them to forcefully become vegetarian. It is also suggested by research that giant pandas lost their taste and liking for meat due to a loss of genetic information. Research suggests that over two million years ago, evolved giant pandas completely became bamboo eaters.

Scientists speculate that pandas became full-time bamboo eaters over two million years ago!

What does a panda eat besides bamboo?

Even though giant pandas in the wild and captivity are bamboo eaters and bamboo constitutes about 75-99% of their diet, the 1% has many types of other foods. Pandas eat many types of fruits; they mostly love to eat apples. They also eat healthy and delicious steamed corn and bread. They are also given ice in the summer with apples inside it so that they remain cool and do not overheat. Although pandas are mostly vegetarian, they like to hunt small rodents and pikas in the wild to constitute the remaining 1% of their diet.

Giant pandas also eat grasses, bulbs, fruit, and bugs occasionally. Giant pandas in captivity are also fed carrion which are decaying remains of some other animal. Pandas also feed upon animals like fish, birds, and musk deer fawns. Giant pandas are considered unique in the animal kingdom for feeding upon bamboo primarily; however, even that has drawbacks. You might have heard that bears undergo hibernation. Pandas do not undergo hibernation. Why? Because bamboo doesn't supplement them enough with sufficient calories for them to sleep for months. Feeding on bamboo also implies that the milk of pandas is not as nutritious as that of other bears causing them to rear their young, called cubs, for longer periods of time. Giant pandas are pregnant only for two to three months which is significantly less time compared to almost six months for bears. Cubs of pandas are also lightweight compared to cubs of other bear species. Panda cubs weigh between 90-130 g whereas bear cubs weigh between 300-400 g. Although they are from the same family, pandas and bears have major differences mainly due to variations in their food. Pandas have to spend the majority of their time eating bamboo, thus, they have to live in specific locations in the wild where they need a large supply of bamboo which they can feed upon. If there is not enough bamboo present in the wild, our black and white furry animals may become extinct soon.

Why do pandas eat so much bamboo in a day?

The simplest answer to this would be that bamboo is present widely in their habitat in nature. Bamboo is also a plant that regrows very fast and is not preferred as a food source by many other animals. The giant panda's primary source, bamboo, is sadly not very nutritious for it. Thus, the giant panda spends most of its day eating copious amounts of bamboo so that it can reach its requirement of nutrients. The digestive system of giant pandas is carnivorous-like with a small intestine and a simple stomach, which is much simpler than the multi-chambered stomach of herbivorous animals. This results in our black and white friends not being able to digest plants properly.

It is also speculated by many scientists that the DNA of pandas adapted to eating bamboo about four million years ago. According to scientists, prey pandas hunted went extinct during that time and left no choice but for pandas to eat bamboo present in their natural habitat. It was also the only remaining food resource for them, thus they had no choice but to eat a lot of bamboo stalks to constitute their dietary needs. Even after the panda's preferred animals' population began to rise again, panda ancestors stuck to their bamboo diet. Pandas also possess powerful jaws due to their dense skull. Their teeth are also flat and quite large allowing them to easily break down and grind dense bamboo stalks. The panda's teeth and jaw combination helps food get broken down rigorously before reaching the stage of digestion. This helps to not stress out the panda's digestive tract which is made for digesting meat. Pandas also possess an elongated wrist bone that has a similar function as the thumb of a human, letting pandas grip bamboo stalks tightly. This makes stripping leaves of bamboo stalks easier. Scientists also suggest that bamboo causes a release of reward-like feelings in the panda's brain that are similar to feelings that humans get when they devour something they crave.

Did You Know...

Cubs of giant pandas are 1/900th the size of the giant panda mother!

Giant pandas are the most endangered species of bears in the world.

There are only 1,864 giant pandas remaining in the entire world.

Giant pandas eat bamboo equaling about 15 percent of their body weight within 12 hours at a very fast pace.

Giant pandas in the wild dwell in the south-central part of China. They are omnivores that were classified under the Endangered category of the IUCN's Red List in the year 2008. Their population has been put at risk mainly due to habitat loss, logging, and agriculture activities!

The typical natural habitat of giant pandas comprises montane forests but they do well when they live in a wetter habitat!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how much bamboo does a panda eat then why not take a look at how fast can a bear run, or Giant panda facts!

Written By
Rhea Nischal

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