From Marc Alexander’s ‘In the Balance’ series, Giant Pandas, oil and silver leaf on canvas, 90cm by 120cm, (2015).
The Endangered Giant Pandas with an estimated population of 2 000 – 3 000 is a peaceful creature with a distinctive black and white coat and is adored by the world and considered a national treasure in China. The panda has been the logo of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) since their founding in 1961. The rarest member of the bear family, pandas live mainly in bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China, where they live almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat from 12 to 38 kilograms of it every day. A new-born panda is about 1/9th the size of its mother; 90 – 130gr, but can grow to up to 150kg as an adult. These bears are excellent tree climbers despite their size. Hunting remains a threat although poaching pandas for their fur has declined due to strict laws. Habitat loss is a continual threat as this reduces the panda’s access to the bamboo they need to survive.
Pandas communicate through vocalization and scent marking such as clawing trees or spraying urine. They are able to climb and take shelter in hollow trees or rock crevices, but do not establish permanent dens. For this reason, pandas do not hibernate, which is similar to other subtropical mammals, and will instead move to elevations with warmer temperatures. Pandas rely primarily on spatial memory rather than visual memory. Though the panda is often assumed to be docile, it has been known to attack humans, presumably out of irritation rather than aggression.