Do pandas eat meat? New footage from China shows one munching on flesh. Among other things, pandas are famous for their diet. The giant rotund panda bear, native to South Central China is a folivore, despite belonging to the order Carnivora. Bamboo shoots and leaves make up for 99% of their vegetarian diet. As they typically spend 10-16 hours per day feeding, they need at least two different species of bamboo to satiate their hunger. However their digestive system is typical of a carnivore and the rest of the 1% of their diet includes eggs, forage in farmland for kidney beans, pumpkin, etc. But can they feed on meat? According to recent footage from a nature reserve in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, probably yes. A giant panda was filmed holding and nibbling on bones of a dead animal. The video has been shared by CCTV Video News Agency.
The recording, shared on YouTube by CCTV Video News Agency, was captured as part of a field population survey. Researchers were studying panda habitats at the Foping National Nature Reserve in Hanzhong City. Ranger Li Shuiping was counting the number of pandas along with his team. Since no bamboo forest was spotted on this large mountain slope, they got curious to know what the giant panda was chewing on.
They saw several eaten bones, presumably from an animal carcass, scattered around the adult panda. After a while, the panda was seen dropping off the bone, turning around and wandering back into the woods.
The researchers picked up the panda’s fecal samples and studied them. They found that the feces were different from the usual bamboo diet and presence of some 20 pieces of animal bone residue.
According to Li, this was the second occasion when they spotted a giant panda gnawing on meat in the Qinling Mountains. The last time they recorded a similar video was also in winter.
Li Sheng, researcher at Peking University and expert at International Union for Conservation of Nature, mentioned that previous records have shown wild giant pandas eating meat in other nature reserves in different provinces across China. Since their ancestors were omnivores and the giant pandas were forced to change their diet to bamboo to adapt to the changing climate and habitat, they still retain the digestive tract akin to a carnivore.
Research records show that the giant pandas occasionally treat themselves to something special, mostly from animal remains. However, what is the behaviour about or what the complementary animal food source means to the wild giant pandas is yet to be studied further.
The Foping Reserve, part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program, has the highest density of panda population in the country.