Social structure and breeding

The "family" life

Giant pandas are generally solitary, each adult having a well-defined home range, within which they move about regularly.

Although they are not territorial, females do not tolerate other females and sub-adults within the core areas of their range.

Encounters are rare outside the brief mating season, but pandas communicate fairly often, mostly through vocalization and scent marking.

As the animals move about, they mark their routes by spraying urine, clawing tree trunks, and rubbing against objects.

Breeding

Pandas are erroneously believed to be poor breeders.

This is an impression based on the disappointing reproductive performance of captive pandas.

But wild panda populations involved in long-term studies are known to have reproductive rates comparable to those of some populations of American black bears, which are thriving.

Panda breeding facts:

  • Giant pandas reach sexual maturity at 5.5 to 6.5 years.
  • A female can mate with several males, who compete with each other to mate with her.
  • A male will seek out different females who are on heat.
  • The mating season is in spring between March and May.
  • Males and females usually associate for no more than 2 to 4 days.
  • Gestation takes about 95 to 160 days and pandas normally give birth to single young (twins seem to be born more frequently in captivity, when artificial insemination is used).
  • The reproductive rate is about 1 young every 2 years
Sichuan Province young offspring newborn mom female panda / ©: Susan A. MAINKA / WWF-Canon
Giant panda mother with her 1 month old baby Wolong Nature Reserve, China
© Susan A. MAINKA / WWF-Canon
Giant pandas, panda rel=
Da Di and Jia Lin play together in the Wolong Research & Breeding Centre, China
© Susan A. MAINKA / WWF-Canon

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