This three-month old female giant panda cub made her public debut yesterday—amid some familiar-looking stuffed-toy camouflage—at the Giant Panda Conservation Center at the National Zoo in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has been part of an international effort to breed highly endangered giant pandas in captivity ever since Richard Nixon visited China in 1972. But in 43 years, they’ve had only two solid successes–cubs Tai Shan and Bao Bao. They hope the new twins born this weekend will make it four.
We can’t call giant panda Jia Jia the oldest panda in the world, because there are around 1,600 wild pandas roaming around out there. We can, however, salute her new title as “Oldest Panda Living in Captivity,” which she does at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park. She’s 37* today and that “cake” is made of flavored ice**.
When asked what is best in life, this giant panda at the Toronto Zoo had a good answer: To crush the snow, to see it driven before you as you slide down a hill, and to hear the chompy noises of bamboo being eaten.
Red pandas and giant pandas have more in common than simply being equally adorable and included on the IUCN Red List. They both eat bamboo and live in the same habitats. How do they coexist without competing over the same resources? The secret might be hidden in their skulls.
For members of the taxonomic order Carnivora, giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) eat surprisingly little meat. They're nearly entirely herbivorous, subsisting almost exclusively on bamboo. What's strange about the panda is that it isn't really very well designed for a plant-based diet. At least not at first glance.
This little feller is Agriarctos beatrix, which roamed the forests of Spain some eleven million years ago. It represents the earliest known member of the giant panda's evolutionary subfamily, and it was pretty much just ridiculously adorable.