Are giant pandas herbivores or carnivores?

Are giant pandas herbivores or carnivores? | Sassafras ScienceHiya folks! Tracey here, back to introduce another amazing friend and local expert. This one is going to answer the question – are giant pandas herbivores or carnivores?

I first meant Tashi in Sichuan, China on our zoology leg. I was separated from Blaine when this incredibly sweet Tibetan girl came up to me and we became instant friends.

She ended up taking me to her home in the mountains and on the way, I learned about pandas, monkeys, eagles, and mice. It was an explosive time – you’ll understand why when you read the story!

Anywho, I asked Tashi to come by the blog today to clear up some confusion about the giant panda and its diet.

Please join me in welcoming my friend – Tashi Yidro.

The Sassafras Science Adventures by Elemental Science

Tashi deleg (or hello).

My name is Tashi Yidro and I first met Tracey in my home in Sichuan, China. We took a lovely stroll through the Panda Reserve that ended up with quite a fright!

Because of this, I never got the chance to fully explain to my friend why the giant panda, who eats tons of bamboo, is considered a carnivore and not a herbivore.

So, thank you, Tracey, for inviting me to share this information with all of your friends today.

Before I clear up the dietary confusion, let me share a little about the giant panda.

The Giant Panda

The giant panda is an endangered animal. There are fewer than three thousand still found in the wild because it was once hunted for its fur, which is a beautiful black and white.

These days, one of the best places to observe this creature is at the famous Panda Reserve located between the big city of Chengdu and my village in the Himalayan Mountains.

The giant panda loves to eat bamboo. It has an extra pad on its front paw that works a little like a thumb. This helps it to grasp the stems of the bamboo.

It can eat up to six hundred bamboo stems a day! So, the giant panda spends twelve to fifteen hours of each day eating. It has large, powerful jaws which can crush the tough bamboo stems.

These jaws crush the shoots between flat teeth to release the nutrients stored inside. The panda’s throat has a tough lining to protect it from splinters. Even so, most of the tough bamboo fibers pass straight through its digestive system.

Are Giant Pandas Herbivores or Carnivores?

So, knowing that the giant panda survives on a diet of bamboo shoots, one would think it is a herbivore. Quite the contrary, this black and white creature is officially classified as a carnivore.

It has a digestive system that is not well suited to its mainly bamboo diet. Although the giant panda does have thicker walls in its esophagus to protect it from splinters, the intestines in the animal’s gut are far too short to digest bamboo the way a typical herbivore would.

In other words, even though the panda has a diet like a herbivore, its insides more closely resemble a carnivore.

This is why they must eat such a vast quantity of the plant to survive. And the reason why the giant panda is officially classified as a carnivore.

I hope that what I shared has given you a deeper appreciation of the amazing giant panda!

Thu je che (or thank you), for reading what I have shared.

tashi byline

A Final Word from the Twins

Wow, I had no idea! Thanks for sharing this with us today, Tashi.

Blaine and I wanted to add a bit more for you all, so we had the Sassafras team put together a free herbivore or carnivore printable for you all to use. Just click on the link to download it:

Thanks for reading!

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