Giant pandas are found in Central and Western China, in bamboo forests at elevations from 2,500 to 3,500 meters. If we mentally eliminate the black and white colors of the panda's fur, and we replace it with brown, we'll see a brown bear. Giant pandas primarily eat bamboo but also leaves, insects, and rodents. Unlike some other bears, giant pandas do not hibernate because their main food, bamboo, can be found in abundance, year round. They are very nearsighted but have an excellent sense of hearing. An interesting feature of the panda is an extra, opposable digit on the hand known as "the panda's thumb", used in tearing and manipulating the bamboo while feeding. This digit is not actually a thumb but a pad of skin overlaying the wrist bone. They live up to 30 years in captivity. Currently pandas are one of the most endangered animals on Earth. Remaining bamboo forests in China only support about 1,000 wild pandas, and their hunting and poaching is punished very severely (including the death penalty), while the zoo population is about 100 pandas worldwide. However, it is very difficult for the pandas to breed in captivity.
The above picture was taken at the Washington zoo, in August 2002.
Life on Earth