This endangered species is one of the most well-known and well-loved in the world.

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Introduction

The giant panda was unknown to the western world until 1869, when it was discovered by a French missionary called Pere Armand David. For a while, it was known as Pere David's bear.  A complex process of DNA testing has now shown that giant pandas are indeed bears, and not members of the raccoon family, as was thought until recently.

Giant pandas are extremely rare. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says there are just 1,864 pandas left in the wild. There are an additional 400 pandas in captivity, according to Pandas International. The hunting of pandas has been banned for many years, so this is not the problem. Destruction of its habitat, when areas are cleared for crop cultivation, is one of the main reasons for the panda's decline. Another reason is that the bamboo that makes up most of their diet, is dying back. The pandas find it difficult to migrate to new feeding areas because they find themselves hemmed in by human settlements. As the bamboo disappears, the pandas simply starve to death.

Read More: Appearance

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