Seeing giant pandas is one of the many reasons people visit mainland China. These magnificent creatures are as iconic as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army.
Despite habitat destruction, China remains the best place to see this wildlife wonder of the world. There are less than 2,000 giant pandas left in the wild, which makes every baby panda an extra special addition to its endangered population.
Panda centres throughout China are working hard to conserve the species through breeding and release programs. The Chengdu Panda Reserve in Sichuan Province, along with the Dujiangyan Panda Base and Wolong Panda Centre, is one of the best places to see pandas and view these conservation efforts in person.
You’ll also get to see lots of cute and cuddly baby pandas. To get you excited about your visit, we’ve put together some lesser-known baby panda facts…
Newborns weigh as much as a lemon
Despite remaining in the womb for a period of between 3 and 5 months, baby pandas are born extraordinarily small. A newborn panda weighs just 100g on average – that’s the same weight as an average lemon.
Moreover, the lightest panda ever recorded weighed just 36g whilst the heaviest tipped the scales at 210g. This average weight makes newborn pandas the world’s smallest mammal babies relative to their mother’s size.
Why baby pandas are born so small has been a mystery that has puzzled researchers for a long time. Here Medical News Today reveals one theory:
“The prevalent theory for explaining small birth size relies on the fact that pregnancy occurs at the same time as winter hibernation in some species.
During hibernation, pregnant mothers rely on fat reserves to survive, so they do not eat or drink. They also break down muscle mass to feed protein to the fetus… In other words, the energy resources are limited, so the babies must be born prematurely, resulting in small cubs.”
Pandas are born pink and hairless
The giant panda is renowned for its distinctive black and white colouring. But those lucky enough to see a newborn panda during their visit to China may be surprised by their appearance.
Baby pandas are born pink and hairless and remain that way for approximately three weeks. While their fur may have grown at week three, baby pandas don’t open their eyes until around 6 to 8 weeks. Their limbs are also so weak that they are virtually immobile and entirely reliant on their mothers until they’re three months old.
Baby pandas stay with their mothers for at least 18 months and aren’t fully weaned until they reach 8 to 9 months of age.
Nine out of 10 pandas now survive
According to recent research, nine out of 10 pandas born at breeding centres in China now reach adulthood. This is despite the challenges faced by vulnerable baby pandas during their first few months of life. Survival rates have grown dramatically in the past 60 years, with no more than 30% of baby pandas surviving during the 1960s.
Baby pandas are still heavily reliant on their mothers, but the facilities provided by breeding centres mean mothers are better prepared to deliver the warmth, milk, and protection their babies need.
Half of all baby pandas are twins
Giant pandas giving birth to twins is particularly common in the wild. Despite the rising survival rate in breeding centres however, it is still extremely rare for both twins to survive in the wild.
Panda mothers are only equipped to raise one cub at a time, with mothers not having the milk or energy to care for them both. In the wild, the stronger cub is picked and the other left to perish.
Panda breeding centres are transforming twin survival rates for the better, however. In centres, staff are on hand to rotate the two cubs, meaning they both get the time they need with their mother. Twin cubs are rotated every few hours and whilst one spends time with their mother, the other relaxes in a cosy incubator.
Discover more fun, family-friendly activities to add to your itinerary here.