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13 Panda Facts That Will Make You Love Them Even More

Because who doesn't want to know more about the most adorable animals on the planet?

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Picture of a cute giant panda baby.
Maciej Bledowski/Shutterstock

Panda Fact #1: Pandas have huge growth spurts

Pandas grow from tiny to massive in a few short years. Pink, blind, and hairless, panda infants weigh just three to five ounces and have been compared in size to a stick of butter. But within a year, pandas tip the scales at around 100 pounds; fully mature pandas can be up to six feet long and reach 350 pounds. This isn’t one of the only panda facts that will surprise you, there are a lot of panda facts that the average person doesn’t know!

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panda eating bamboo
Denis Galushka/Shutterstock

Panda Fact #2: Pandas eat a lot of bamboo

We can’t talk about panda facts without mentioning their love of bamboo. Giant pandas are technically carnivores, but their diets consist nearly exclusively of bamboo. Because the plant lacks much nutritional value, pandas eat up to 85 pounds of bamboo a day to maintain their energy levels and can scarf down a shoot in about 40 seconds. (Don’t worry, their throats have a special lining to protect against splinters.) But all that fiber has side effects: An adult panda can produce more than 60 pounds of droppings in 24 hours.

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Giant panda bear (Ailuropoda Melanoleuca), China
Don Mammoser/Shutterstock

Panda Fact #3: Pandas have six fingers on each paw

Unlike other members of the bear family that have little or no dexterity in their paws, pandas have opposable “thumbs,” along with five other fingers, that help them hold bamboo and remove the plant’s stems and leaves before eating. Like these panda facts? Check out these 23 “facts” about animals that just aren’t true.

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Panda bears eating together
Hung Chung Chih/Shutterstock

Panda Fact #4: Pandas are native to China

These cuddly creatures are found in central China, specifically in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. According to the panda facts from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, they once lived in lowlands but had to relocate to bamboo forests in the mountains because of farming and forest clearing.

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An adult giant panda bear
Hung Chung Chih/Shutterstock

Panda Fact #5: Pandas can be dangerous

Sure, panda facts are usually light-hearted and fun but don’t be misled by the cute faces and cuddly-looking fur. These bears could not only crush you with their heavy bodies, but they also have very strong teeth and jaw muscles that they use to crush tough bamboo. Don’t miss these innocent-looking animals that are surprisingly dangerous.

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Panda walking around rocks and grasses

Panda Fact #6: Pandas don’t hibernate

Pandas don’t settle down for a winter slumber like most other bears. Instead, they head down the mountains where they live to find warmer temperatures. Other panda facts make these animals different from most bears, including the fact that pandas aren’t carnivorous.

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Panda Bear Sleeping on a Tree Branch, China Wildlife. Bifengxia nature reserve, Sichuan Province.

Panda Fact #7: Pandas love their naps

Instead of sleeping through the night, wild pandas take naps after eating that last two to four hours. In the summertime, they can nap for six or more hours. They don’t care about the position they sleep in, either. They can snooze on their backs, sides, or bellies; curled up in a ball; or all sprawled out. Hopefully our panda facts won’t put you to sleep!

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Playful Giant Panda Cub is Relaxing in the Playground

Panda Fact #8: Pandas value alone time

Adult pandas don’t spend much time interacting with each other, and they’re generally quiet animals. However, they do occasionally communicate through scent marks, squeaking, barking, growling, or huffing.

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A panda in a forest
Taha Masood/Shutterstock

Panda Fact #9: Pandas play an important role in their habitat

Pandas love all the bamboo available in their forest homes, but they also have a crucial role in the forest’s ecosystem by spreading seeds that encourage vegetation growth. This helps ensure the forests’ other residents, like multicolored pheasants, blue dwarf sheep, and the endangered golden monkey, also have a suitable home. Check out more animals that have unexpected superpowers.

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Little Giant Panda Cub is Playing in the Snow, New Wolong Breeding Panda Base, China

Panda Fact #10: We may finally know why pandas are black and white

For years, scientists speculated as to why panda fur is colored the way it is. One belief was that it helped them camouflage in forests of bamboo and in the snow, and another suggested that it helped them maintain appropriate body temperature since black absorbs heat and white reflects it. But in 2017, a study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology claimed that the camouflage theory is in fact correct, stating that the white fur helps the animal hide in snowy habitats while the black fur is used for camouflage and communication. The study authors believe their black ears are a sign of aggression toward predators and the black fur around their eyes helps them identify other pandas.

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Two pandas are hugging and frolic together

Panda Fact #11: Some pandas don’t know how to have sex

Giant pandas may be unknowingly contributing to their place on the endangered species list. Female pandas are able to mate only two or three days per year, and some males don’t know how to do the deed. Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, a pair of pandas who live together at the National Zoo in Washington, DC haven’t naturally conceived a cub in 13 years. Says David Wildt, the head of the Center for Species Survival at the zoo, “Rather than pulling Mei Xiang toward his lap, Tian Tian steps on her back and stands there like a man who has just opened a large box from IKEA and has no idea what to do next.”

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Panda family of 3

Panda Fact #12: The United States pays big bucks to rent pandas from China

Zoos in just four U.S. cities—Atlanta, Washington, DC, San Diego, and Memphis—house giant pandas, and they pay a hefty rental fee to the Chinese government. According to the New York Times, American zoos generally pay $1 million a year in fees as part of a typical ten-year contract.

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Giant Panda on the Tree

Panda Fact #13: Pandas may soon be endangered

Rounding off our panda facts is this sad reality. Although they don’t have many natural predators, there are only about 1,800 pandas left in the wild, the World Wildlife Fund estimates. Their conservation status is “vulnerable,” just one step above “endangered.” The primary factors for this status are poaching and loss of habitat due to the construction of roads and railroads. Luckily, organizations like the World Wildlife Fund are putting all hands on deck to preserve their habitats and keep pandas around for years to come. After learning these panda facts, get inspired to donate to WWF or other conservation organizations that help these 11 other wild animals you never realized were endangered.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest