People the world over love the black-and-white bears known as pandas. The giant panda is a national treasure in China, and these rareA species that has small populations, so that even a slight decrease in numbers could cause extinction. bears are protected by law. Today, only around 1,600 giant pandas survive on Earth. Scientists are working together to find solutions to the problems these beautiful bears face.
With so few pandas in the wild, scientists are trying to understand the ways the bears find one another for breeding. Researchers have put special collars on some wild pandas. The collars send signals that the researchers can track. This helps them understand where the pandas are—it’s difficult to study an animalAny living thing that is not a plant. Most animals can move about freely. All use plants or other animals as food. All have sensory organs. that is as hard to locate as a panda! Scientists are also recording sounds pandas make in zoos and the wild and testing the hearing of pandas in zoos. Researchers are even testing the scents pandas leave on trees and rocks to try to understand what messages these animals leave with smell.
Bamboo is the most important plantAny living thing that is not an animal. Plants live on sunlight and water instead of food. Plants generally cannot move on their own, and are not able to smell, hear, see, or touch. in a panda’s life, because that is what it eats! Giant pandas eat four or five kinds of bamboo that grow in their home rangeThe area over which an organism travels to obtain its food.. Sometimes their food supply is low because after bamboo produces seeds, the entire plantAny living thing that is not an animal. Plants live on sunlight and water instead of food. Plants generally cannot move on their own, and are not able to smell, hear, see, or touch. dies. When that happens, pandas move to another area. But now, with humans taking up much of the panda’s habitatWhere an animal or plant normally lives and grows., pandas are often unable to move to another area and may starve. In some areas, humans have cleared forests to grow only one or two kinds of bamboo, but it is not the kind pandas need to survive.
Panda females use hollow tree stumps and stone caves as dens for raising their cubs. As forests are cleared for human uses, there are fewer dens available. San Diego Zoo researchers have been working with Chinese scientists to find out if putting man-made dens in the wild could help solve this problem.
Pandas only give birthThe beginning of an animal's life. every two years. Females give birthThe beginning of an animal's life. to one or two cubs, but often the mother can only care for one. China has some pandas in special places where they are cared for by humans. When a female panda gives birthThe beginning of an animal's life. to twins there, the keepers help raise them so both cubs can survive. This has helped the number of pandas in the world to grow.