A Giant Panda’s Diet: Bamboo and meat

Authors: Giant Panda


In addition to bamboo, the giant pandas also love meat.

It's universally known that giant pandas eat bamboo. Their sensitive olfactory sense helps them to tell easily whether the bamboo is fresh or stale. They refuse stale, old, bug-infested, or worm-eaten samples and only accept fresh options. Every season their remarkable senses enable them to find the freshest bamboo parts to meet their nutritional requirements. Pandas prefer to eat bamboo shoots in spring and summer, bamboo leaves in autumn, and bamboo stems in winter. Bamboo constitutes an endless food source that sustains giant pandas year round.

According to Professor Hu Jinchu's observation at Wolong Nature Reserve, giant pandas also occasionally eat at least 25 other kinds plants. However, these plants only account for 1% of a giant panda's diet.

Giant pandas eat primarily a vegetarian diet so they leave the impression of abstaining from killing. Omei Illustrated Guide Book even described the distinctive loud noisy sound that pandas make when breathing air out through their noses resembles the sound of chanting Buddhist monks, a group known for vegetarianism. However, this is an obvious misunderstanding.

Giant pandas were carnivores and later became specialists in bamboo consumption due to climate and environment changes during ancient times. They still retain the short digestive tract of carnivores, which is 4 times their body length. In contrast, herbivores like deer have a digestive tract that is 25 times the body length for fermenting foods, and containing microbes that aid with fiber digestion. This is the primary reason why giant pandas focus their dietary efforts on the laborious task of consuming low nutritional bamboo. As a result pandas in the wild have to stay awake for more than ten hours per day to forage.

However, if there is an opportunity for a panda to consume meat, they will do so. In the 1980s a panda was recorded breaking into the kitchen at the Wuyipeng Protection Station in Wolong Nature Reserve. This panda even climbed onto the stove to eat preserved pork! Some pandas stray into farmyards to attack and eat livestock.

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