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10 Surprising Facts About Baby Pandas

There’s something special about pandas. They’re adorably fuzzy, have a gentle appearance, and just have an all-around appeal. This is double so with baby pandas. They look like stuffed toys come to life. They are more than just cute balls of fluff. These mostly herbivorous bears have an interesting start in life. Keep reading to learn some fun facts about baby pandas.

10 Interesting facts about baby pandas

1. Newborn pandas only weigh about 100g.

Newborn pandas are tiny, especially compared to their mothers, who can weigh as much as 220lbs. Since pandas solely consume bamboo, they may have evolved to have small offspring due to the minimal nutrients bamboo contains. To reach their nutrient needs, adult pandas need to eat about 40% of their body weight in bamboo every day.

3. Baby pandas are born “prematurely”.

Baby pandas are born, naked and helpless, and are scientifically not fully gestated. Their brains have not fully developed, and their immune systems have not yet started to function. Even their ears have not developed, and are just tiny nubbins on the sides of their heads. For this reason, their mothers will maintain almost constant body contact with them until they are around 3-4 weeks old. Once they grow fur, they can be left alone while their mother leaves to eat bamboo.

4. They nurse until they are about 1 year old.

At around 6 months of age, pandas begin to eat bamboo. They will not wean completely until they are around one year old. This may again be due to the low nutrient content of bamboo, and the amount of energy needed to reach adult size.

5. Pandas prefer having 1 baby.

Half of all panda pregnancies result in twins. If this happens in the wild, they will often pick the stronger twin, and abandon the other. This is most frequent among first-time mothers. This is because pandas spend 80% of their time caring for the cubs for the first 3 months.  Pandas need to consume massive quantities of bamboo to stay alive. When caring for their newborns they go days without eating or drinking.

Two cubs will deplete her resources much more quickly. Pandas also have to carry their cubs in their paws or their mouths, making mothering 2 much more difficult. When this occurs in zoos, the zoo veterinary team will step in. They will rotate the cubs, allowing one to feed, while the other stays in an incubator.

image: Pixabay.com

6. Panda babies are tiny.

With the exception of marsupials, pandas are the smallest newborn mammals in relation to the size they will reach as an adult. However,  baby pandas don’t stay small for long. By about 6 weeks old, a baby panda is around 10 times its birth weight. From birth to one year, a cub will gain at least 60 pounds. Pandas will reach their adult size at around 18 months old. This is around 220-224lbs for females, and up to 350lbs for males.

7. They may stay with mom for up to 2 years.

The length of time a panda stays with its mother often depends on when she conceives again. Most pandas head out on their own at around 2 years old. They are not fully mature until they reach around 4-6 with males maturing more slowly.

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8. Captive pandas can be supplemented with dog milk.

When a captive mother panda has a low milk supply or multiple babies, zoos will supplement her milk supply. Dog’s milk is very similar in composition to panda milk, so it is frequently used as a substitute. It is so similar in nutrient content, that there very rarely needs to be further nutrient supplementation.

image: Pixabay.com

9. The survival rate of pandas at birth centers has skyrocketed.

To help preserve the dwindling number of pandas, China established captive breeding programs. These programs have provided invaluable research on panda behaviors. When these facilities were first opened in the 1960s the success rate for baby pandas surviving into adulthood was only around 30%. Since then because of years of observation and research, the success rate has increased to 90%.  Due to the success of these breeding programs, there are now over 300 giant pandas in captivity.

10. Pandas have hair at around 3 weeks old.

Baby pandas are born naked and pink. At birth, they resemble large baby mice. that all changes by the time they reach around 3 weeks of age. By then their distinctive coloring has grown in, and they look like miniature versions of adults. Thay may have their adult coloring, but they still have a lot of growing to do.  They won’t be able to walk until they reach around 4 weeks old.