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The Giant Panda

(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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