- Learn something new about everybody’s favorite black-and-white bears.
Today is the International Panda Day! It’s a day for raising awareness of the panda bear, the global symbol of endangered animals.
Now, we have previously listed the panda among the most pathetic animals on the planet. And while we’re not taking that back, even we can’t deny that there’s something charming about black-and-white bears.
Or is it white-on-black?
Anyhow… To make amends for our past harsh words against pandas, here are 7 fun and weird facts about them that you may not have known before.
7. Pandas Have Six Fingers
Most mammals — and birds, reptiles, and amphibians — have five digits. Some, like us humans, have opposable thumbs, but that’s a luxury in the wider animal world.
Pandas wanted one too to hold onto bamboo better, but alas, they don’t have thumbs. So what did they do?
They grew a sixth finger.
Well, in the name of honesty, it’s not a true finger. Pandas’ “pseudo-thumb” is actually just an extended wrist bone.
They can’t bend it or grab anything with it. But it’s still great for supporting a stick of bamboo.
6. Pandas’ Colors are a Great Camouflage
When you think about pandas, the first thing to pop into your mind is probably their unique fur color. But did you know that their distinctive colors make for fantastic camouflage?
You may not think so, since a panda sticks out like a sore thumb in their usually green zoo environments. But in the wild, they generally inhabit high mountain forests that are snowy for a large part of the year.
The white parts of their fur blend into the snowy ground, while the black patches meld into the shadows from the surrounding trees. It may surprise you, but a panda is practically invisible in its natural habitat.
Case in point, some researchers took photos of wild pandas to see if their camouflage really is effective. They had problems finding the pandas in the photos.
5. Pandas Eat Meat (Sometimes)
Quick, what does a panda eat? If you guessed bamboo with a side of bamboo, a light bamboo dressing, and bamboo for dessert, you’d be 99% correct.
That’s how much of a panda’s diet consists of different types of bamboo. But the rest is other stuff — including meat.
Pandas may be 99% vegan, but their digestive systems are still those of a carnivorous bear. This means they’re completely capable of eating meat.
And sometimes they do. They’re not very active predators, but if they happen upon some eggs, small animals, or carrion, they will chow down with gusto.
4. Pandas are Terrible Parents
Not all weird facts about pandas are nice facts. For example, they’re absolutely awful parents.
Because of a quirk of nature, roughly half of all panda pregnancies result in twins. But only one cub will survive because the mother always abandons the other to die.
Panda cubs are very weak and for a full year, they’re completely dependent on their mother’s milk. But a mother panda can only ever produce enough milk for one cub.
So, rather than endanger both cubs and herself by trying to take care of both, panda mothers always decide to cut their losses. By abandoning one cub they can at least ensure the other can live.
Talk about playing favorites.
3. Pandas Do Handstands When They Pee
Ever seen a panda pee? If you have, you know why it’s funny.
But if you haven’t, well… They often do a handstand while taking a whiz.
It’s not just for the sake of piss acrobatics, though. Pandas use their urine to mark their territories and communicate with each other in general.
By doing a handstand, the panda can spray its pee high on trees — right up to the nose height of another panda. If anything, they’re being courteous by making it easier for others to sniff their pee.
2. Pandas Poop 100 Times Per Day
Remember still how we said pandas have a carnivore’s digestive system? Well, that means that they can’t digest hard bamboo fibers all that well.
The stuff basically just falls through them. A panda with no stomach problems poops around 100 times a day — roughly every 15 minutes.
In total, they excrete roughly 65 pounds of crap every day. That’s around a quarter of the weight of an adult panda.
Since they can’t absorb many nutrients from what they eat, they have to munch down almost constantly. An average panda spends about 12 hours of their day eating — and sleeps for the rest.
1. Pandas are No Longer Endangered
Pandas are the face of all endangered animals in the world — just look at the logo of the World Wildlife Foundation. It’s kind of ironic now, since they’re not actually endangered anymore.
Now, don’t get us wrong — they still face threats from habitat loss and are vulnerable. But in 2017, they officially lost their “endangered” status.
After being on the brink of extinction for decades, the wild panda population is finally growing. The growth is slow and precarious, but it’s still growth.