Giant Panda | WWF-Canada
© Michel Gunther / WWF

Giant Panda

Giant Panda Overview

The giant panda is perhaps the most powerful symbol in the world when it comes to species conservation. In China, it is a national treasure, and for WWF the panda has a special significance since it has been our organization's symbol since 1961 when WWF was formed. This peaceful, bamboo-eating member of the bear family faces a number of threats. Its forest habitat is fragmented and populations are small and isolated from each other. Meanwhile, poaching remains an ever-present threat. In the 1980s, there were as few as 1,114 pandas in China. But the most recent survey in 2014 estimated that there were 1,864 pandas living in the wild. Their population has increased by 17 per cent over the last decade alone.

Where they live

The giant panda was once widespread throughout southern and eastern China, as well as neighbouring Myanmar (Burma) and northern Vietnam. Due to expanding human populations and development, the species is now restricted to only 20 or so isolated patches of mountain forest in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

The panda's habitat surrounds the great Sichuan Plain. To the north are the Qinling Mountains and to the west are the Minshan, Qionglai, Liangshan, Daxiangling, and Xiaoxiangling Mountains.

Panda Bear distribution map

What they eat

The simple answers is: bamboo. A panda's daily menu consists almost entirely of the leaves, stems, and shoots of various bamboo species. Bamboo contains very little nutritional value, so pandas must eat 12-38kg every day to meet their energy needs.

Panda Bear diet bamboo

Life cycle

Giant pandas are generally solitary, each adult having a well-defined home range, within which they move about regularly. Encounters are rare outside the brief mating season, but pandas communicate fairly often, mostly through vocalization and scent marking.

Pandas are erroneously believed to be poor breeders. This is an impression based on the disappointing reproductive performance of captive pandas. But wild panda populations involved in long-term studies are known to have reproductive rates comparable to those of some populations of American black bears, which are thriving.
© Michel Gunther / WWF
Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca); Sichuan Province, China
© Michel Gunther / WWF

Pulling the panda back from the brink

After 30 years of slow but steady progress, the IUCN has now changed the panda's status on the Red List of Threatened Species from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable.” The decision is welcome news following decades of hard work by the Chinese government, local communities, nature reserve staff and the WWF.

Help the Giant Panda Thrive

© wwf-canada

Give a Panda Room to Grow

© © Bernard De Wetter / WWF

adoption panda

Risks they face

Despite the conservation success in the panda's habitat in recent years problems still persist. The major factors contributing to habitat loss and fragmentation — the most pressing threats to the giant panda — are:
  • Conversion of forests to agricultural areas
  • Medicinal herb collection
  • Bamboo harvesting
  • Poaching, and
  • Large-scale development activities such as road construction, hydropower development, and mining.

The illegal wildlife trade and the natural phenomenon of bamboo die-back are also threats.

Because of China's dense and growing human population, many panda populations are isolated in narrow belts of bamboo no more than 1.2km wide — and panda habitat is continuing to disappear as settlers push higher up the mountain slopes.


WWF has been active in giant panda conservation since 1980, and was the first international conservation organization to work in China at the Chinese government's invitation. Early panda conservation work included the first-ever intensive field studies of wild panda ecology and behaviour. Current work focuses on, the Minshan Mountains in Sichuan and Gansu provinces and the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi province.

Solutions in these areas include:
  • Increasing nature reserves,
  • Creating green corridors to link isolated pandas,
  • Patrolling against poaching and illegal logging,
  • Building local capacities for nature reserve management, and
  • Continued research and monitoring.

Key Facts

Status: Vulnerable (IUCN)
Scientific Name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Weight: 100 to 150 kg
Height: Up to 150cm for Adults
Habitat: Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests of Southwest China

What WWF is Doing

WWF has been working closely with the Chinese government in the Qinling and Minshan Mountains, key landscapes for the panda, and the projects implemented in these areas to save the panda are working.

WWF panda success:
  • Panda habitat is increasing with the development of new reserves and green corridors.
  • Some threats to panda survival such as poaching and illegal logging have been significantly reduced.
  • Community development projects to help people sustainably coexist with pandas have been very positive.
  • In 2016, the panda’s status was changed from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.


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