Pandas live mainly in bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat from 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, a formidable task for which they use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.
A newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter—about 1/900th the size of its mother—but can grow to up to 330 pounds as an adult. These bears are excellent tree climbers despite their bulk.
Wild panda numbers are finally rebounding after years of decline. In September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that pandas have been upgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable.”
Pandas play a crucial role in the bamboo forests where they roam by spreading seeds and facilitating growth of vegetation.