Giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca

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GIANT PANDA, Ailuropoda melanoleuca
The giant panda with its distinctive black and white coloring is a well known mammal. It is an endangered endemic wild species of China. The Chinese refer to panda as ADa Xiong Mao@ (giant bear cat). However, it is neither a bear or a cat. In fact, satisfactorily classifying the giant panda has been a challenge for taxonomists with many now agreeing that the panda deserves its own family, Ailuropodidae. Ailur means cat and pod means foot. Pandas are one of the oldest mammals. Three million years ago pandas were widely distributed in East Asia. By the end of the 1970's there were no more than 1000 pandas in the wild. Human impact had reduced their range to primarily three provinces ( Shaanxi, Sichuan, and Gansu ) in China. People throughout the world had become acquainted with the panda because in the early 1970s the Chinese government had donated pandas to zoos throughout the world. The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) adopted the panda as its symbol and in 1981 set up the Wolong research center in Sichuan province in conjunction with the Chinese government. The center was dedicated to the preservation of the panda. Today additional reserves have been set aside for panda preservation.

Pandas are slow moving mammals who eat primarily one type of bamboo. Adult pandas have an average weight of 380 lb and require 45 lb of food daily. Bamboo tends to have a long life cycle sometimes blooming once every 100 years. Most plants tend to bloom at the same time. After blooming the plants die. In 1975 there was a major bamboo bloom with nearly all the plants in a 1900 square mile area dieing. During that time 140 pandas died of starvation.

Today forestry agencies and communities work together to protect the giant panda. The Chinese government says the main focus of their work includes:

* establishing nature reserves. According to China=s Department of Conservation there were four reserves established in 1963. Today there are 34 panda nature reserves covering 60% of the wild pandas.

* conducting surveys. The purposes of the surveys are to determine the number of pandas

in the wild and to identify the preferred panda habitat.

* protecting panda habitat. Logging operations have been stopped in some areas to protect panda habitat.

* patrol and rescue. Patrol teams have been established to assist sick and starving panda

in the field. According to the government of China, 120 pandas have been saved since


* legislation and law enforcement. Poaching of pandas is illegal and punishment for breaking the law can be death.

* community development. An effort has been made to improve the living standards of

people living in and near panda reserves without disrupting the panda population.

* scientific research. Research on the behavior, physiology, pathology, breeding, and habitat of the panda continue. Low panda reproduction rates have been one problem plaguing the panda population.

* international cooperation. Many groups from around the world have been involved with funds, techniques, and training to help ensure panda survival. They include the WWF, World Bank, the German Government, and the San Diego Zoo.

Through these efforts the Chinese government hopes to restore and protect panda habitat and maintain a stable and healthy developing wild and captive population of giant panda. Today there are approximately 1000 wild pandas and 110 domestic pandas in China.

Information from AChina National Conservation for the Giant Panda@ a publication of the Chinese

government Department of Wildlife Conservation, State Forestry Administration

Baedeker=s Travel Guide

Instructions: Read the handout about the giant panda and then answer the following questions.
1. Explain what is wrong with the statement Apanda bears are mammals that eat bamboo@.

2. Give the complete classification for the giant panda ( kingdom -- species ). Pandas are in the order Carnivora.

3. What is the scientific name of the giant panda? Be sure to write it in the proper way.

4. Most bamboo plants bloom at the same time. After flowering the plants die. Explain how this has survival advantage for the bamboo. How is it a disadvantage for the pandas?

5. Discuss 2 ways in which humans have had a negative impact on pandas.

6. Discuss 2 ways in which humans have had a positive impact on pandas.

7. List and describe some ( at least 4 ) measures the Chinese government has taken to enhance the survival chances of the giant panda.

8. Do you think the efforts of the Chinese government and others have been successful? Explain.

9. Do you think it is important for humans to try to save species like the panda? Explain why or why not.

10. Discuss the plight of the panda in terms of Asurvival of the fittest@.

Objectives: At the completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

* give the classification of giant panda

* discuss some positive and negative impacts of humans on the panda population

* describe some conservation measures designed to protect the panda

* discuss the plight of the giant panda in terms of survival of the fittest
Grade levels: junior high and senior high

Subject: science

( I will use this lesson with my tenth grade biology students after we have studied evolution and classification.)

Materials: copy of the panda handout and questions for each student


* Read and discuss the panda handout as a class.

* Have students answer the questions.

Assessment: check student answers

Arkansas Science Frameworks:

life science 2.7, understand that all living things evolve through time because of environmental changes

2.9, analyze relationships among organisms and recognize a classification system

2.11, investigate problems resulting from human impact on the environment
Resources used: publication of the Chinese Department of Wildlife Conservation, State Forestry

Administration, AChina National Conservation for Giant Panda@

Baedeker=s Travel Guide

Lesson: Giant Panda

Answers to questions.

1. Pandas are not bears even though people sometimes incorrectly call them bears.

2. Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata (optional in the answer)

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ailuropodidae

Genus: Ailuropoda

species: melanoleuca

3. Ailuropoda melanoleuca or Ailuropoda melanoleuca

4. The bamboo all flowering at the same time increases the chances for successful pollination. More pollination means more seeds. More seeds means that more bamboo plants will have the potential to sprout and grow. The more plants produced the greater the chances of survival for the species.

5. Humans have negatively impacted pandas by cutting the bamboo forest and reducing the

size of the areas in which pandas live. Areas of panda habitat are separated from one another,

effectively isolating groups of panda. This prevents pandas in different areas from interacting

with one another and prevents pandas from migrating to new areas in search of resources.

6. Humans have established numerous nature reserves which give 60% of the wild pandas a safe

place to live. Also laws are in place that protect pandas from poaching. In addition, logging operations have been reduced or halted in some areas to help preserve panda habitat.

(Other correct answers are possible)

7. The Chinese government has:

a. established nature reserves to give wild pandas a safe place to live.

b. conducted surveys to count pandas and identify their habitat.

c. protected panda habitat by halting logging operations.

d. established teams to rescue injured or starving pandas.

e. made poaching pandas illegal with severe consequences for any who break the law.

f. tried to improve the living standards of people near the panda reserves without

negatively impacting the pandas.

g. conducted research on panda physiology to try to overcome reproduction problems.

h. cooperated internationally to obtain the techniques and funding necessary to try to

save the panda.
8. The efforts of the Chinese government have been somewhat successful. There is still a wild

population of pandas. The number of wild pandas is around 1000 today. When conservation

efforts began in the 1980's, the number of pandas was around 1000. The Chinese government has managed to maintain a stable population. However, the population might have been expected to increase because of the increased number of reserves and the other steps the government has taken.

9. Student answers will vary, but hopefully they will say yes.

10 .Survival of the fittest refers to those species or those members of a species that have traits

that enhance their chances of survival. The panda, by eating only one type of bamboo, is limiting its chances when the bamboo flowers and dies. Also the reproductive problems of the panda decreases its chances of survival as a species.

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