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Giant Panda

Overview

Despite their exalted status and relative lack of natural predators, pandas are endangered. Severe threats from humans have left fewer than 1,600 pandas in the wild.

  • Status
    Endangered
  • Population
    1,600 in the wild (2004)
  • Scientific Name
    Ailuropoda melanoleuca
  • Height
    More than 4 feet long for adults
  • Weight
    220 to 330 pounds
  • Habitats
    Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests of Southwest China

This peaceful creature with a distinctive black and white coat is adored by the world and considered a national treasure in China. The bear also has a special significance for WWF. The panda has been WWF's logo since our founding in 1961.

The rarest member of the bear family, pandas live mainly in bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat from 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, a formidable task for which they use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.

Newborn pandas are about the size of a stick of butter—about 1/900th the size of its mother—but can grow to up to 330 pounds as adults. These bears are excellent tree-climbers despite their bulk.

New Video of Baby Panda and Mother

Newly released video captures a panda cub ambling behind its mother one peaceful morning, on a forested ridge deep in China’s Anzihe Nature Reserve.

Giant Panda

Why They Matter

  • Crucial Role in Forests

    Pandas play a crucial role in the bamboo forests where they roam by spreading seeds and facilitating growth of vegetation. In the Yangtze Basin where pandas live, the forests are home to a stunning array of wildlife such as dwarf blue sheep, multi-colored pheasants and other endangered species, including the golden monkey, takin and crested ibis. The panda’s habitat is at the geographic and economic heart of China, home to millions of people. By making this area more sustainable, we are also helping to increase the quality of life of local populations. Pandas bring huge economic benefits to local communities through ecotourism.

Threats

  • Population 1,600 in the wild (2004)
  • Extinction Risk Endangered
    1. EX
      Extinct

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN
      Endangered

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU
      Vulnerable

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Hunting

Hunting remains an ever-present threat. Poaching the animals for their fur has declined due to strict laws and greater public awareness of the panda’s protected status. But hunters seeking other animals in panda habitats continue to kill pandas accidentally.

Habitat Loss

China’s Yangtze Basin region, which holds the panda’s primary habitat, is the geographic and economic heart of this booming country. Roads and railroads are increasingly fragmenting the forest, which isolates panda populations and prevents mating. Forest destruction also reduces pandas’ access to the bamboo they need to survive. The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, but only around 61% of the country’s panda population is protected by these reserves.

What WWF Is Doing

Giant Panda resting in Sichuan Province, China

WWF was the first international conservation organization to work in China at the Chinese government's invitation. WWF’s main role in China is to assist and influence policy-level conservation decisions through information collection, demonstration of conservation approaches, communications, and capacity building.

Protecting Giant Pandas

We work towards and advocate for:

  • increasing the area of panda habitat under legal protection
  • creating green corridors to link isolated pandas
  • patrolling against poaching, illegal logging, and encroachment
  • building local capacities for nature reserve management
  • continued research and monitoring

WWF has been helping with the Chinese government’s National Conservation Program for the giant panda and its habitat. Thanks to this program, panda reserves now cover more than 3.8 million acres of forest.

The WWF Logo

Evolution of the WWF logo
The evolution of the WWF logo

The inspiration for the WWF logo came from Chi-Chi: a giant panda that had arrived at the London Zoo in 1961, the same year WWF was created. WWF’s founders were aware of the need for a strong, recognizable symbol that would overcome all language barriers. They agreed that the big, furry animal with her appealing, black-patched eyes would make an excellent logo.

The first panda sketches were done by the British environmentalist and artist, Gerald Watterson. Based on these, Sir Peter Scott, one of WWF’s founders and world-renown conservationist and painter, drew the first logo. The design of the logo has evolved over the past four decades, but the giant panda’s distinctive features remain an integral part of WWF’s treasured and unmistakable symbol. Today, WWF’s trademark is recognized as a universal symbol for the conservation movement.

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WWF In The News

Projects

  • Photos from Camera Traps in China

    Camera traps are not the intricate and elaborate devices you might imagine. These innovative conservation tools are in fact nothing more than everyday cameras, armed with infrared sensors that take a picture whenever they sense movement in the forest.

Experts

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