What do pandas eat?

Answer
Pandas are primarily herbivores and their diet consists almost entirely of bamboo. Here are the key points about the panda's diet:

Bamboo Diet

  • Pandas eat almost nothing but bamboo shoots, leaves, and stems, which account for 99% of their diet.123
  • They consume between 26 to 84 pounds (12-38 kg) of bamboo per day to meet their energy needs.3
  • Pandas require at least two bamboo species in their habitat to survive, as they will starve if one species becomes scarce.1
  • They prefer different bamboo parts based on the season - shoots in spring/summer, leaves in autumn, and roots in winter.5

Other Food Sources

  • While almost entirely vegetarian, pandas occasionally eat other plants, fruits (like apples), meat from small mammals and rodents (like pikas and bamboo rats), and even fish, accounting for about 1% of their diet.12345
  • Captive pandas are also fed nutritious cakes, corn bread, carrots, and are given vitamins to supplement their diet.5

Eating Habits

  • Pandas spend 12-15 hours per day eating and foraging due to the low nutritional value of bamboo.15
  • They can eat bamboo up to 1.5 inches thick using their strong, flat molars and enlarged wrist bones that act as thumbs for gripping.15
  • Baby pandas drink their mother's milk for the first 6 months before transitioning to a bamboo diet.5
In summary, while the giant panda has evolved to depend almost entirely on bamboo for sustenance, they occasionally supplement their diet with other vegetation and very rarely, meat, to meet their nutritional needs.12345
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