Early level - Suggested Activity

Background Notes for Teachers

Natural and Captive Environments for Giant Pandas

Giant pandas naturally live in the mountainous areas of central China surrounded by cool, wet, dense bamboo forests. They are solitary creatures and live alone for most of the year, only coming together during breeding season.

Pandas like to spend time in dens and will often give birth to their cubs in a den made from a hollowed out tree, pile of rocks or a cave. Like most bears, pandas love to climb and will be climbing from around 6 months old. They are also great swimmers and love the water. They spend around 16 hours a day feeding, but they do occasionally like to play - when they are not sleeping!

Female pandas ovulate once a year and can conceive for only 2 or 3 days around the time of ovulation. In the wild, female pandas will urinate in streams and rivers to send chemical messages to male pandas to indicate she is ready to conceive.

For pandas in captivity, it is important that they spend their time in an environment that closely mimics that of their natural habitat. At RZSS Edinburgh Zoo the giant panda enclosure has been primarily designed to do just that. Each design feature of the enclosure has a purpose, from giving the pandas shelter from the elements to providing structures for climbing and scratching, everything has been designed and installed for a specific reason.

Use the information on the previous page to find out more about these features. Some or all of them can be used in pupils' designs.

The pandas in their enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo