Giant Panda Bears + Snow = Cuteness

Giant Pandas are endangered but surviving at zoos

Sydni Cain, VOX Reporter

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On January 22, as Winter Storm Jonas began to wreak havoc on many MODG students’ transportation plans in Washington D.C., some unlikely characters were having a great time: panda bears! Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, Bao Bao, and Bei Bei, the four Giant Panda Bears who call Washington D.C.’s National Zoo home, were joyful about the icy flakes pouring from the sky.

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Tian Tian Smithsonian’s National Zoo

On January 23, the National Zoo released footage of Tian Tian excitedly playing in the snow, following a photo of Bei Bei’s wary reaction to the first snowfall of his life. The video of Tian Tian went viral almost immediately, even making its way onto multiple television news channels.

Giant Panda Bears (ailuropoda melanoleuca) hail from the Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces of Central China. Though they used to have a great deal of space to roam, they are now restricted to the mountains due to farming, forest clearing, and other developments.

As the destruction of their habitat increases and, consequently, food becomes scarcer, Giant Pandas are becoming more and more extinct, and are on the endangered species list. Today there are only 1,600 left in the wild. More than 300 live in zoos for protection, such as the four in Washington DC.

Giant Pandas can grow to about the size of the American Black Bear, standing two to three feet tall on four legs and reaching about four to six feet long. Males weigh up to 250 pounds, whereas females are slightly lighter at a maximum weight of 220 pounds. Like any other panda bear, their main food and water source is bamboo. Scientists do not have an exact number regarding the lifespan of wild Giant Pandas.

What they do know for sure, however, is that those confined to zoos generally live longer. The oldest reported age of a captive panda is 35 years old.

Bao Bao Smithsonian National Zoo

Bao Bao
Smithsonian National Zoo

Hsuing-Hsuing, a late resident of the National Zoo, died at age 28 in 1999.

While Giant Pandas look cute and fluffy, they are actually quite dangerous. They tend to be solitary creatures, spending most of their time sleeping or eating.
Tian Tian’s antics provided trapped tourists a prime example of how to make the most of a winter lockdown. Sometimes, all it takes is a panda bear.

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