Mankind’s influence has in many ways been devastating to the planet. Large areas have become polluted due to the emissions and waste that we produce. Habitats have been destroyed for farmland and industry, and even the climate that we rely on for survival has been affected. This has had a direct impact on many of the animals that we share our planet with. In recent decades, however, there has been an increasing awareness of the need to protect the planet and the other animals that live on it. Conservation efforts are on the rise, and the movement has acquired a mascot: the giant panda.
The giant panda has long been a symbol of conservation and is often used to help raise awareness of the need for conservation in general. Once widespread throughout China, the giant panda now lives in some remote mountainous areas in numbers of just a few thousand. The difficulties facing those trying to help the panda have led to some controversy over the time and money spent. Still, the efforts continue, and the panda has at least stabilised for now.
The panda with its adorable appearance is a favourite animal to many people worldwide. Researchers have studied it a great deal and have learned some incredible facts.
Panda Fact #10: Pandas are Bears
Officially known as the giant panda, these animals are members of the bear family. They are not closely related to the red panda which belongs in a family of its own. It wasn’t until as recently as 1985 that the panda was officially classified as a bear. There was debate that it was more closely related to the racoon family, but a genetic study has placed it firmly in the bear family. Studies show that the panda diverged from other bear species as long as 19 million years ago.
Giant pandas as a species are quite old. Fossils of giant pandas have been discovered and dated at around 1-2 million years old. There are also two recognised sub-species of panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, and A. m. qinlingensism, who’s range is restricted to the Qinling Mountains. The latter is coloured brown and white instead of black and white, and is smaller than it’s black and white cousin. It also has larger molars.