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PNG images: Panda

The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, literally "black and white cat-foot" literally "big bear cat"), also known as panda bear or simply panda, is a bear native to south central China. It is easily recognised by the large, distinctive black patches around its eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. The name "giant panda" is sometimes used to distinguish it from the unrelated red panda. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the giant panda's diet is over 99% bamboo. Giant pandas in the wild will occasionally eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents or carrion. In captivity, they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared food.

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The giant panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu. As a result of farming, deforestation, and other development, the giant panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived.

The giant panda is a conservation reliant vulnerable species. A 2007 report showed 239 pandas living in captivity inside China and another 27 outside the country. As of December 2014, 49 giant pandas lived in captivity outside China, living in 18 zoos in 13 different countries. Wild population estimates vary; one estimate shows that there are about 1,590 individuals living in the wild, while a 2006 study via DNA analysis estimated that this figure could be as high as 2,000 to 3,000. Some reports also show that the number of giant pandas in the wild is on the rise. In March 2015, Mongabay stated that the wild giant panda population had increased by 268, or 16.8%, to 1,864 individuals. In 2016, the IUCN reclassified the species from "endangered" to "vulnerable" (it did not believe there was enough certainty yet to do so in 2008).

While the dragon has often served as China's national symbol, internationally the giant panda appears at least as commonly. As such, it is becoming widely used within China in international contexts, for example as one of the five Fuwa mascots of the Beijing Olympics.

For many decades, the precise taxonomic classification of the giant panda was under debate because it shares characteristics with both bears and raccoons. However, molecular studies suggest the giant panda is a true bearand part of the family Ursidae, though it differentiated early in history from the main ursine stock. The giant panda's closest extant relative is the spectacled bear of South America. The giant panda has been referred to as a living fossil.

Despite the shared name, habitat type, and diet, as well as a unique enlarged bone called the pseudo thumb (which helps them grip the bamboo shoots they eat) the giant panda and red panda are only distantly related.