Here is a celebration of one of the world’s most adorable, fascinating, and endangered creatures.
In pictures and in videos—spending an afternoon in a panda wormhole on YouTube is a fine way to waste a few hours—pandas look like they’re about the size of a stuffed teddy bear, or a dog. They’re actually much larger. A year-old giant panda usually weighs about 100 pounds and is about five feet long (or tall). At full maturity, a panda can reach 350 pounds and a length of six feet.
Giant pandas are famously black and white, but their color scheme is not so black and white. When they’re born, they’re not only blind, but they’re not yet covered in fur. They’re just fleshy and pink. After a few weeks, their hair starts to grow into that familiar black and white pattern. (Every once in a while, the rare panda develops brown and white fur.)
Not a bad way to spend the day: the average panda spends about 14 hours out of every 24 hours eating. They love bamboo, which has few nutrients, but a lot of, uh, passable material. This means they might eat as much as 60-80 pounds of the green stuff every day…and then they excrete as much as 80 percent of it.
Other panda favorites: flowers, vines, fish, honey, carrots, and even mice.
Best Time for a Visit
If you want to visit a panda in a zoo, try to go in August—that’s when panda babies are almost always born. They have a gestation period of three to five months, which means breeding time is March through May. (However, pandas are a little shy when it comes to mating. Zookeepers have been known to get pandas in the mood by showing them videos of, well, other pandas mating.)
Red pandas aren’t bears—they’re related to raccoons. Giant pandas are bears, but unlike their ursine cousins, they don’t hibernate.
According to panda experts, giant pandas really like the taste of metals. Specifically, they like to lick copper and iron bowls. People who study pandas in the wild, as well as panda handlers, have created panda popsicles in the summer—fruit and juice frozen in a metal dish.