The giant panda, also known as panda bear or simply panda, is a bear native to south central China.
China, officially the People's Republic of China, is a unitary sovereign state in East Asia.
Bears are carnivoran mammals of the family Ursidae.
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It is easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around its eyes, over the ears, and across its round body.
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Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the giant panda is a folivore, with bamboo shoots and leaves making up more than 99% of its diet.
The bamboos are a subfamily of flowering perennial evergreen plants in the grass family Poaceae.
Carnivora is a diverse scrotiferan order that includes over 280 species of placental mammals.
In zoology, a folivore is a herbivore that specializes in eating leaves.
Giant pandas in the wild will occasionally eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents, or carrion.
In captivity, they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared food.
The giant panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan, but also in neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu.
Sichuan, formerly romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan, is a province in southwest China occupying most of the Sichuan Basin and the easternmost part of the Tibetan Plateau between the Jinsha River on the west, the Daba Mountains in the north, and the Yungui Plateau to the south.
As a result of farming, deforestation, and other development, the giant panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived.
Deforestation, clearance or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a non-forest use.
The giant panda is a conservation-reliant vulnerable species.
A vulnerable species is one which has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
A 2007 report showed 239 pandas living in captivity inside China and another 27 outside the country.
As of December 2014, 49 giant pandas lived in captivity outside China, living in 18 zoos in 13 different countries.
A zoo is a facility in which all animals are housed within enclosures, displayed to the public, and in which they may also breed.
Wild population estimates vary; one estimate shows that there are about 1,590 individuals living in the wild, while a 2006 study via DNA analysis estimated that this figure could be as high as 2,000 to 3,000.
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms and many viruses.
Some reports also show that the number of giant pandas in the wild is on the rise.
In March 2015, conservation news site Mongabay stated that the wild giant panda population had increased by 268, or 16.8%, to 1,864.
Mongabay.com is a web site that publishes news on environmental science, energy, and green design, and features extensive information on tropical rainforests, including pictures and deforestation statistics for countries of the world.
In 2016, the IUCN reclassified the species from "endangered" to "vulnerable".
The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
While the dragon has often served as China's national symbol, internationally the giant panda has often filled this role.
A national symbol is a symbol of any entity considering and manifesting itself to the world as a national community: the sovereign states but also nations and countries in a state of colonial or other dependence, federal integration, or even an ethnocultural community considered a 'nationality' despite having no political autonomy.
As such, it is becoming widely used within China in international contexts, for example, appearing since 1982 on gold panda bullion coins and as one of the five Fuwa mascots of the Beijing Olympics.
The Fuwa were the mascots of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.