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The Giant Panda

Pandas now live on islands. In many senses it is true, and it is why they are under threat of extinction.

A booming Chinese population has filled the valleys between the mountains where the pandas live. Being shy elusive creatures, the pandas cannot get across from one mountain top to another if they are to avoid humans. So if the food runs out on one mountain - they starve.

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(c) WWF / Fritz Poelking

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Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)Wolong Research Centre, Sichuan, China.

It may be cold, and there may not be much new growth about to eat, but a giant panda does not hibernate. Giant pandas are biologically unique. They are closely related to bears and have the digestive system of a carnivore, but they have adapted to a vegetarian diet and depend almost exclusively on bamboo as a food source. Not designed to process plant matter, the panda's digestive system cannot easily break down the cellulose in bamboo, so pandas must eat huge amounts – as much as 40 kg (83 pounds), for up to 14 hours, each day.

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