THE GIANT PANDA T-Shirt
he Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, "black-and-white cat-foot") is a mammal classified in the bear family (Ursidae), native to central-western and southwestern China. The panda was previously thought to be a member of the Procyonidae (raccoons and their relatives). It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though belonging to the order Carnivora, the panda has a diet which is 99% bamboo. Pandas may eat other foods such as honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, and bananas when available. --------------------------------------- Giant Pandas live in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict giant pandas to the mountains. ----------------------------------- The Giant Panda is an endangered species and highly threatened. According to the latest report, China has 239 giant pandas in captivity and another 27 pandas living outside the country. It also estimated that around 1,590 pandas are currently living in the wild. However, a 2006 study, via DNA analysis, estimated that there might be as many as 2,000 to 3,000 pandas in the wild.Though reports show that the numbers of wild pandas are on the rise,the International Union for Conservation of Nature believes there is not enough certainty to remove pandas from the endangered animal list. --------------------------------------------- While the dragon has historically served as China's national emblem, in recent decades the Giant Panda has also served as an emblem for the country. Its image appears on a large number of modern Chinese commemorative silver, gold, and platinum coins. The species is a favorite of the public, at least in part because many people find that it has a baby-like cuteness. Also, it is usually depicted reclining peacefully eating bamboo, as opposed to hunting, which adds to its image of innocence. Though giant pandas are often assumed docile, they have been known to attack humans, presumably out of irritation rather than predatory behavior.-------Loans of giant pandas to American and Japanese zoos formed an important part of the diplomacy of the People's Republic of China in the 1970s, as it marked some of the first cultural exchanges between the People's Republic and the West. This practice has been termed "Panda Diplomacy". By the year 1984, however, pandas were no longer used as agents of diplomacy. Instead, China began to offer pandas to other nations only on 10-year loans. The standard loan terms include a fee of up to US$ 1,000,000 per year and a provision that any cubs born during the loan are the property of the People's Republic of China. Since 1998, due to a WWF lawsuit, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service only allows a U.S. zoo to import a panda if the zoo can ensure that China will channel more than half of its loan fee into conservation efforts for wild pandas and their habitat. In May 2005, the People's Republic of China offered Taiwan (Republic of China) two pandas as a gift. This proposed gift was met by polarized opinions from Taiwan due to complications stemming from Cross-Strait relations. As of November 2007, Taiwan has not accepted the offer.----------Giant pandas are an endangered species, threatened by continued habitat loss and by a very low birthrate, both in the wild and in captivity. Pandas have been a target for poaching by locals since ancient times, and by foreigners since they were introduced to the West. Starting in the 1930s, foreigners were unable to poach pandas in China because of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, but pandas remained a source of soft furs for the locals. The population boom in China after 1949 created stress on the pandas' habitat, and the subsequent famines led to the increased hunting of wildlife, including pandas. During the Cultural Revolution, all studies and conservation activities on the pandas were stopped. After the Chinese economic reform, demand for panda skins from Hong Kong and Japan led to illegal poaching for the black market, acts generally ignored by the local officials at the time.------------Though the Wolong National Nature Reserve was set up by the PRC government in 1958 to save the declining panda population, few advances in the conservation of pandas were made, due to inexperience and insufficient knowledge of ecology. Many believed that the best way to save the pandas was to cage them. As a result, pandas were caged at any sign of decline, and suffered from terrible conditions. Because of pollution and destruction of their natural habitat, along with segregation due to caging, reproduction of wild pandas was severely limited. In the 1990s, however, several laws (including gun control and the removal of resident humans from the reserves) helped the chances of survival for pandas. With these renewed efforts and improved conservation methods, wild pandas have started to increase in numbers in some areas, even though they still are classified as a rare species.-----------In 2006, scientists reported that the number of pandas living in the wild may have been underestimated at about 1,000. Previous population surveys had used conventional methods to estimate the size of the wild panda population, but using a new method that analyzes DNA from panda droppings, scientists believe that the wild panda population may be as large as 3,000. Although the species is still endangered, it is thought that the conservation efforts are working. As of 2006, there were 40 panda reserves in China, compared to just 13 reserves two decades ago.-------------The giant panda is among the world's most adored and protected rare animals, and is one of the few in the world whose natural inhabitant status was able to gain a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, located in the southwest Sichuan province and covering 7 natural reserves, were inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2006.