Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-hb754 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-27T15:10:01.662Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

1 - The giant panda as a social, biological and conservation phenomenon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2009

Susie Ellis
Conservation International
Wenshi Pan
College of Life Sciences
Zhong Xie
Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens
David Wildt
National Zoological Park
David E. Wildt
Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington DC
Anju Zhang
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Hemin Zhang
Wildlife Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas
Donald L. Janssen
Zoological Society of San Diego
Susie Ellis
Conservation Breeding Specialist Group
Get access



The giant panda has captured the world's imagination. Its seemingly harmless, playful nature, velvety black and white fur, flat face, softly rounded body and soulful black eye patches combine to make it resemble an oversized and loveable teddy bear (Fig. 1.1). Its upright posture and famous ‘panda's thumb’ – an elongation of the wrist bone that allows it to grasp bamboo and other food much like people do – further adds to its widespread appeal. From the most prominent government authorities to young children, people are passionate about protecting the giant panda. This fervent interest has caused the panda to emerge as the most highly visible of all endangered species, even though few people have actually ever seen one in the wild. Furthermore, this single species has become a worldwide icon for the need to conserve animals, plants and habitats. Therefore, it is ironic that the giant panda, which evokes so much attention by the public, scientific and conservation communities, still remains such a mystery with so many pieces still missing from a biological jigsaw puzzle that, if solved, could improve species management, welfare and conservation. The purpose of this book is to provide, and then assemble, a few more pieces of this enormous puzzle.


Within China, the giant panda often is called daxiongmao by local people, literally ‘large bear-cat’ in Chinese (Schaller et al., 1985). Its scientific name Ailuropoda melanoleuca actually means black and white cat-footed bear.

Giant Pandas
Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
, pp. 1 - 16
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ellis, S. and Seal, U. S. (1995). Tools of the trade to aid decision-making for species survival. Biological Conservation, 4, 553–72.Google Scholar
Gould, S. J. (1982). The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
Hu, J. and Qiu, X. (1990). History and progress of breeding and rearing giant pandas in captivity outside China. In Research and Progress in the Biology of the Giant Panda, ed. Hu, J., Wei, F., Yuan, C. and Wu, Y.. Chengdu, China: Sichuan Publishing House of Science and Technology, pp. 326–33.Google Scholar
Liu, J., Ouyang, Z., Yang, Z. et al. (1997). Human factors and panda habitat change in the Wolong Nature Reserve. Proceedings, Ecological Society of America, 1997 Annual Meeting, Albuquerque.
Lu, Z., Pan, W., Zhu, X., Wang, D. and Wang, H. (2000). What has the panda taught us? In Priorities for the Conservation of Mammalian Diversity: Has the Panda Had Its Day?, ed. Entwistle, A. and Dunstone, N.: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 325–34.Google Scholar
Lu, Z., Johnson, W., Menotti-Raymond, al. (2001). Patterns of genetic diversity in remaining giant panda populations. Conservation Biology, 15, 1596–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lumpkin, S. and Seidensticker, J. (2002). Smithsonian Book of Giant Pandas. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Press.Google Scholar
Mainka, S., Ed., (1997). Proceedings of the International Workshop on the Feasibility of Giant Panda Re-introduction, Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China, 25–29 September. Beijing: China Forestry Publishing House (in Chinese and English).Google Scholar
Nowak, R. M. and Paradiso, J. L. (1983). Walker's Mammals of the World, 4th edn. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 976–7.Google Scholar
Pan, W. (1995). New hope for China's giant pandas. National Geographic, 187, 100–15.Google Scholar
Pan, W. and Lu, Z. (1993). The giant panda. In Bears: A Complete Guide to Every Species. Majestic Creatures of the Wild, ed. Stirling, I.. London: Harper Collins, pp. 140–5.Google Scholar
Pan, W., Oftedal, O. T., Zhu, X., et al. (1998). Milk composition and nursing in a giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Acta-Scientiarum-Naturalium- Universitatis-Pekinensis, 34, 350–1.Google Scholar
Reid, D., Hu, J., Dong, S., Wang, W. and Huang, Y. (1989). Giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca behavior and carrying capacity following a bamboo die-off. Biological Conservation, 49, 85–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schaller, G., Hu, J., Pan, W. and Zhu, J. (1985). The Giant Pandas of Wolong. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Schaller, G., Tang, Q., Johnson, K. et al. (1989). The feeding ecology of giant panda and Asiatic black bear in the Tangjiahe Reserve, China. In Carnivore Behavior, Ecology and Evolution, ed. Gittleman, J.. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 212–41.Google Scholar
Sheldon, W. G. (1975). The Wilderness Home of the Giant Panda. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
Xie, Z. and Gipps, J. (2003). The 2003 International Studbook for Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Beijing: Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens.Google Scholar
Zhang, G., Swaisgood, R. R. and Zhang, H. (2004). An evaluation of the behavioral factors influencing reproductive success and failure in captive giant pandas. Zoo Biology, 23, 15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zheng, S., Zhao, Q., Xie, Z., Wildt, D. E. and Seal, U. S. (1997). Report of the Giant Panda Captive Management Planning Workshop. Apple Valley, MN: IUCN–World Conservation Union/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats