The panda is one of the most beloved animals. Pandas are so popular because they look big and cuddly like teddy bears. They seem friendly and harmless to people. However, pandas are also unique and powerful creatures. Here are some fun facts about these giant, playful and strong animals.

*Did you know all of the Giant Pandas living in the wild live in western China? They are found in dense bamboo forests high up in the mountains.

* Pandas have skin that is two different colors. The skin under their dark fur is dark, while the skin under their white fur is pink.

* Most pandas spend up to 16 hours a day eating. In one year, a panda can eat more than 10,000 pounds of bamboo!

* The Giant Panda is one of the few large animals that can grab things as tightly as a human can.

* The head of the panda is a giant machine for crushing bamboo. The jaws are made of very strong, thick bone. Their huge cheek muscles can close their jaws with tremendous force. A thick stalk of bamboo is so hard that you would have trouble breaking it with an ax, but a panda can easily crush it and chew it to bits.

* Pandas also eat other things besides bamboo. They will eat meat when they can get it. Pandas also enjoy eating honey, grass, vines and roots. In the spring, they may even eat flowers.

* Pandas may play in the snow like children. One scientist found a place where a panda went sledding down a hill on its stomach. It “belly flopped” to the bottom, climbed back up the hill — and did it again!

* Most baby pandas are born in dens, which are often found in hollow trees.

* Pandas sometimes climb trees to escape from danger.

* Giant Pandas are already among the most endangered animals on earth. The most serious danger for pandas may come from the bamboo plants that pandas like to eat. Each species of bamboo plant lives and grows for a certain number of years — from 40 to 80 years. Then the bamboo plants of that species flower and die. Entire forests of bamboo may die all at once, leaving the pandas that live in those forests without bamboo to eat.

Chinese scientists and World Wildlife Fund scientists have been studying pandas and their food supply. They are looking for ways to increase the number of pandas that are born in the wild and in zoos. Visit the World Wildlife Fund’s website to learn how you can get involved to help save the Giant Panda from extinction.

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