Habitat, fertilisation, developement and parental care.
Rou Wei Long
Giant Pandas, also know as Ailuropoda melanoleuca, is a rare specie from the bear family. They are normally black and white but four white pandas and one white and brown panda has been spotted in the Shaanxi Foping Nature Reserve in Qinling Mountains. They prefer to live in cold and wet areas, they do not hibernate (picture above of them in cold weather and in a zoo), their thick coat of fur keeps them warm. Pandas are skilled at climbing trees so they can escape danger and also eat their favourite food, bamboo stalks. They usually chose to live close to rivers as they like water. Their territory is small because they only move around 4-5km for female pandas and 6-7km for male pandas. They are threatened by Asian golden cat (red panda), tiger, panther, leopards, jackal, wolf and yellow-throated marten (they prey on panda cubs). In China there are over 1000 pandas in the wild, more pandas are being taught, by humans, to fend for themselves outside so they are going to be ready when they are released.
Fertilisation + Development
Female giant pandas only produce eggs 2-3 times a year during spring and they don't want to mate any other time in the year. Male pandas in spring want to mate more during those times, making them try to fertilise the female. The female panda will have more than one partner to raise its chances of getting fertilised. After a egg is fertilised in the female panda, it does not immediatly implant itself onto the uterus wall, it floats around her reproductive tract, this way we don't know their gestation period. Though mating to birth ranges around 95 to 160 days. Pandas are similar to humans in the reproduction system, the sperm fertilises the egg inside the female and the baby develops internally too. At about 5-6 years old female pandas are able to start reproducing, at most one panda will give birth to 7 cubs, without practise the females already know how to take good care of their young. Past the age of 20 they will be considered old and most likely won't give birth again. There is many myths about pandas, one being that the female can not take care of twins, but that myth was crossed out as a female panda in the Chengdu Zoo raised it's twins to a healthy state (with some help), many cubs are actually born as twins. Pandas development in the form of viviparity and when the bamboos are low in protein the mother lacks energy to fully help the cub develope. They live near bamboo trees (more than 99% of their diet) as it gives them all their protein as well as water. Pandas eat up to 10-20kg of bamboo each day to eat enough nutrients, to get this much food means they use up to 10-16 hours of their day munching and gathering food (third and fourth picture above). Using bamboo as both their source of nutrients and water means they don't need to move around a lot to find different types of food, which is also safer for them. But the disadvantage of this is their predators know where to find them. Because a female panda only can reproduce a couple days a year and once every two years if a cub is born (cub needs 1.5 years till it can fend for itself) which causes it's decline in numbers. The cubs are born very small and helpless, if they were to lose their parents in the wild (in reserves humans would take care of it or give it to another female pand) they would not survive. The great thing about female pandas are that they naturally know to protect are feed the cub, so when the cub is born it's in safe hands.
Cubs require looks of care from their mothers as they are born blind, pink, hairless and 1/900th of an average adult panda's size,about 90g to 130g (shown in the first picture above). In around 6-8 weeks the cubs will finally open their eyes, after three months they may be able to move. The mother will not reproduce/mate until it's baby is able to fend for itself, which can take up to 2 years (this is why they will only have 1 cub every 2 years, also not forgetting they only have a couple days where they are able to reproduce in a year). The cubs survival rate is 59.4% and the rate for a three year old cub is 35.5%. Panda's are K selection as they create one (or two if twins) cub and taking very good care, even though the cub is born very small and fragile the mother will continue to hold the cub and clean it (second picture above). The disadvantage of the way panda's reproduce is that because they reproduce one/two pandas every two years per female, plus the mortality rate, it makes the panda population decrease and they are currently a rare species. The advantage of this type is that with one child the mother can give this one cub a lot of care so the cub grows up healthy and has no problems because its mother is there.
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