Pandas are the cutest bear species in the world. There are two main species of panda; the giant panda or panda bear and the red panda.
There are also two subspecies of red panda; the Chinese red panda and the Himalayan red panda.
There is quite a large difference in the look and diet of the giant and red panda, especially since giant pandas consume so much more due to their larger size.
Both giant and red panda species do have digestive systems that can handle both plant and animal matter. Giant pandas are however mostly vegetarians while red pandas have a more omnivorous diet.
Let’s take a quick look at some of their most popular food sources.
All pandas do love to drink lots of water. They need access to fresh, clean water daily. Giant pandas require a water source that they can both drink and play in.
They enjoy quick bathes in water pools and water can help them stay cool on hot summer days. In captivity, keepers usually offer pandas lots of toys such as balls that they can play with while playing in the water.
Bamboo is the primary food source of both red and giant pandas because they can digest cellulose found in this plant source. There are over 1000 bamboo plant species out but pandas usually only eat 25 of them since these are the only ones that grow at high altitudes where pandas live.
Pandas prefer bamboo shoots but they can also consume other parts of the plant such as leaves. Two third of the red panda’s diet consists of bamboo while the giant panda’s diet is 75% bamboo.
Giant pandas do consume 25% of vegetation other than bamboo. Red pandas consume much more plant vegetation compared to giant pandas.
They may choose to eat mushrooms, roots, acorns, lichens, grasses, and berries that they might find growing at high altitudes. These foods are however quite limited compared to the amount of bamboo they consume and can almost be considered as occasional treats.
Both red and giant panda species still do have carnivore digestive systems. The giant panda doesn’t get a lot of protein from its bamboo diet.
To increase their protein intake, they may occasionally hunt small animals such as picas and rodents.
Red pandas are more eager to consume animal matter compared to giant pandas. They will eat a variety of small mammals such as birds and rodents that they might find in their environment.
Red pandas are eager climbers. They will climb to great heights to reach bird nests that might offer occasional treats.
An egg is a protein-rich food that they love to eat but only enjoy occasionally.
Pandas will sometimes catch and eat fish. They love to spend time in the water to cool off or to play. If they do happen upon a small fish, they might catch it and eat it. This, as with small mammals, isn’t something pandas do every day.
Red pandas will occasionally catch and eat small insects they find while climbing trees and bamboo plants. As with other meat sources, they only consume a small number of insects.
In addition to these natural foods, pandas in captivity may eat other foods such as apples, panda cakes, and steamed cornbread. Pandas also prefer sweetened water such as fructose, galactose, glucose, and sucrose to plain water. They can also consume fruits and veggies but prefer to stick to their original diet of bamboo.
Pandas need a lot of bamboo to stay healthy because this plant has very little nutritional value.
They spend most of their day just eating just so they can stay alive and so they can build fat reserves for winter hibernation. To feed a panda, it needs a lot of fresh bamboo every day with occasional snacks such as mushrooms, other vegetation, or small mammals.
Baby pandas are called cubs and they are tiny when they are born. A baby panda is 1/900th of its mother’s size and it relies on its mother for milk and it is completely helpless for the first few weeks. Orphaned pandas hardly ever survive because they need to be fed on a very specific milk substitute and they need to be raised with extreme care because they are so helpless.
At six months, the cubs will start to eat bamboo and they will gradually eat more bamboo until they are ready to be weaned at 9 months.
Pandas do need to eat a lot because their food has so little nutritional value. An average giant panda needs to eat 26 – 84 pounds of fresh bamboo every day. Red pandas are much smaller but they still eat a lot of bamboo considering their size.
They need about 3.3lb fresh bamboo leaves and 8.8lb fresh bamboo shoots to survive.
It is mostly captive pandas that do eat fruit but red pandas will also look for wild berries in trees. Panda keepers often treat their pandas by offering them sweet fruits such as apples, apples with ice, and berries.
Panda attacks have never been reported. Pandas do not eat humans but they can digest small quantities of meat. It is however important to steer clear of wild pandas because they do have razor-sharp teeth and are large enough to cause serious damage if they are threatened.
It is mostly red pandas that consume eggs because they find it much easier to climb up to nests to get access to these protein-rich treats. Giant pandas can however also consume and benefit from eating eggs. They can digest this food but it isn’t something they easily find in their natural habitat.
Pandas are wonderful creatures and with only 1864 red pandas left living in the wild, these beautiful animals do need all the help they can get.