The giant pandas eat bamboo shoots, leaves and culms for up to 15 hours daily. Their eating behaviour makes people wonder.
The giant pandas’ diet is predominately made up of bamboo plants (99%)
- other plants and small animals make up less than 1%.
These iconic animals' main food is bamboo, but why bamboo?
So, why a bear built like a carnivore forage almost entirely on bamboo? And, why bamboo when it’s very low in nutrients and calories? Let's put data to these questions.
Why do giant pandas eat lots of bamboos?
A study reveals that fresh bamboo shoots
are high in amino acids and vitamins with some traces of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Though bamboo shoots are nutritious, they are low in calories, which is vital for providing the pandas with energy.
In fact, when we compared bamboo shoots to starchy and protein-rich foods, we realised that the bamboo shoots are ten times low in carbohydrates, fats and protein.
This holds the key to why the giant pandas munch through 10 – 25 kilograms of bamboo daily.
Where do pandas get their energy and protein from?
To understand the energy and protein requirements, we’ll compare the carbohydrates, fats and protein in fresh bamboo shoots
to raw potatoes
and tuna fish
per 100 grams per serving.
Comparison of the nutrient composition of young Bambusa tulda shoots, common English potatoes (high carbo food) and Tuna (high protein food) reveals that for every 100 g per serving, there are:
- 3 times fewer carbohydrates in raw bamboo shoots compared to fresh potatoes.
- 10 times fewer fats in raw bamboo shoots compared to fresh potatoes.
- 6 times fewer proteins in raw bamboo shoots compared to raw tuna fish
On average, there are ten times fewer calories in bamboo shoots in every 100 grams.
Perhaps this is a broad way to look at it, but it adds to the understanding that pandas must eat a lot of bamboo shoots to get enough nutrients out of them
Giant Pandas Eat Bamboo like bamboos
As mentioned, the giant pandas' main source of calories (food energy) is the carbohydrates, fats and protein in bamboo they eat.
Carbohydrates are soluble in water which means the body uses them quickly. On the other hand, fats are insoluble in water and serve as an important energy store.
The body taps into this energy source when it needs it.
Naturally, the cells in the body need a consistent supply of energy and food to do their work.
They cannot work properly where there is a lack of carbohydrates, fat and protein uptake.
The poor pandas, who depend almost entirely on bamboo, must eat lots to meet their energy requirement.
In fact, on average, they eat 15 – 20 kilograms of bamboo daily.
This is a lot of bamboos, but it is required if you think in terms of the nutrient intake per 100 grams.
Pandas eat bamboo shoots for calories, vitamins and nutrients.
How many pandas are left in the wild?
A group of pandas is called an 'embarrassment'. Well, they are solitary animals in the wild and seldomly live in large groups.
Occasionally, you'll see them handing out together where there is food.
Their disappearance is exacerbated by urbanisation and agricultural land uses.
According to the WWF, there are less than 2000 pandas that remain in the wild today.
‘The giant panda habitat was once spread throughout China, northern Vietnam and northern Myanmar. But now the giant panda is found in the wild in just six isolated mountain ranges in Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan Provinces in south-central China.' WWF
You can help to protect these iconic species by donating to WWF
This work is based on our research to answer the questions: why do pandas eat bamboo, and why do pandas eat massive amounts of bamboo?
It uses data from reliable sources to give insights into the nutrients and calories in bamboo and puts answers to the questions.