Classification of Pandas

Strictly speaking, in Chinese "pandas" refer to giant pandas (Latin name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca, Chinese name: 大熊猫) and lesser pandas or red pandas (Latin name: Ailurus fulgens, Chinese name: 小熊猫, 红熊猫), both of which are nearly extinct. But when people mention "panda", they usually mean giant pandas, which are of ursidae; while lesser pandas that share a familiar Chinese name with giant pandas in Chinese are of raccoon, living in Sichuan Province of China and some southern Asian areas. Just as another name "red panda" indicates, lesser panda gets the names because of its dark red hairs and smaller size.

An adult giant panda is normally 120-190 cm in height and 85-125 kg in weight. Distinguishing from other six ursidae animals, pandas do not hibernate as well as sun bears do.

The most part of the hairs of a giant panda is white and the hairs covering its ears, eye sockets, shoulders and the four limbs are contrastively black. But so far, another two kinds of giant pandas with different hair colors have been discovered: the brown and white ones, and the white ones.

The first discovery of brown and white giant panda was in 1985 on a hirst near a bamboo forest of Shaanxi Foping Natural Reserve, which is at an elevation of 1200 meters. The panda was extremely weak when it was found. By studious rescue, this 13-year-old and over 60 kg panda got out of morbid danger and was kept in Xi’an Zoo with the name of Dandan (丹丹). After that, three adult and one cub brown and white pandas were respectively seen in the reserve in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 2009. With brown hairs covered on ears, eye sockets, eyelashes, shoulders and the four limbs, brown and white pandas are hailed as “the most beautiful pandas in the world” by experts on panda research from Beijing University.

According to a record by Shaanxi People’s Publishing House, white giant panda was discovered for the first time in 1990 in the same reserve. The panda was 70 cm in height, with white hairs covered most of the part of its body except its eye sockets and legs. The unique appearance of it brought it the praise of “treasure among treasures”. Similarly, several white pandas were found in the reserve in 1991, 1992 and 2008 respectively.

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