Do Giant Pandas Eat Leaves (What Kind)?


If you want to visit giant pandas and feed them, it is important to learn their diet. Although they still have the carnivorous ability to digest their food, they have successfully adapted herbivorous diet. Since they now considered herbivores, do giant pandas eat leaves?

The best answer would be yes, they do. Giant pandas have a daily diet consisting entirely of leaves and stems and shoots of bamboo. Now that you know that giant pandas eat leaves, it’s time to find out what other leaves do they eat or do they even eat other leaves?

Throughout this article, you will also learn more about the reasons for their diet and answer a few related questions. So, continue reading until the end for you to know more about these cuddly bears.

What Kind of Leaves Do Pandas Eat?

bamboo leaves that pandas eat

Pandas eat bamboo leaves. However they don’t simply eat it on a daily basis. Sound interesting? Let’s find out the reason why.

The daily diet of pandas varies from periods of time. For instance, from April to June, they eat mainly bamboo stems. On the other hand, they eat old shoots, stems, and leaves from November to March.

Moreover, it is from July to October when pandas eat mainly leaves.

As an addition, they mainly eat bamboo leaves that grow on perennial evergreen plants belonging to the grass family. These bamboo leaves have various species, and among them, pandas like eating black, water, and arrow bamboo the most.

Pandas are members of the Carnivora order of animals. As the term Carnivora suggests, animals of this order rely mainly on meat as their food. However, this was long way before they have decided to become herbivores and rely on bamboo.

But what kinds of leaves do they eat? Let us jump now into the first kind of leaves included in their diet without further delay.

Wheat

Aside from bamboo and its leaves, pandas also occasionally eat beardless wheat, a widely cultivated grass for its seed. In particular, it is a variety without hairs and is also known as awnless.

Other Kinds

Besides bamboo leaves and wheat, there are still other plants, including their leaves, that pandas eat. A few of these plants include vines and grasses.

Vines, the plants with a growth habit of scandent stems or runners, account for 1% of pandas’ diet. Likewise, pandas also occasionally eat grasses, the plants that have narrow leaves growing from the base.

Why Do Pandas Eat Leaves?

At first, you might wonder why pandas eat leaves when, in fact, they are classified as carnivores. They even have canine teeth like that of meat-eaters, so how come they consume bamboo?

The reason for pandas switching to a plant-based diet was because of both environmental and genetic factors.

Several million years ago, the animals that served as the prey for giant pandas disappeared due to natural habitat changes. Since they had a shortage of food source, they adapted to a new diet, which is bamboo. And when they started eating leaves, they then lost their taste for meat.

Furthermore, the physical characteristics of pandas also evolved, perhaps due to the drastic changes in what they eat. For instance, they had a face of a rounded shape resulting from the development of powerful muscles in their jaws.

In addition, they probably thought that their large molar teeth were to chew and grind up fibrous materials, like bamboo.

What Can Animals Like Pandas Get From Eating Leaves?

Nutrients like calcium are what animals like pandas get from eating leaves, specifically bamboo leaves. This type of diet is also rich in protein, which makes them a hypercarnivore, just like wolves. Without these bamboo leaves, they can’t survive.

How Much of the Leaves Do Pandas Eat Per Day?

Since pandas subsist on a herbivorous diet, they primarily feed on plants that mainly consist of bamboo. They consume various bamboo species and feed on leaves and on roots, shoots, and stems. 

Although bamboo accounts for 99% of their diet, it is a poor nutrient source for them to survive. So with that being said, you would ask how much of these leaves should they consume per day?

On average, pandas should eat between 26.5 and 84 pounds or about 12 to 15 kilograms of leaves daily. Included in their consumption are the other parts of bamboo, which are the roots, shoots, and stems.

Do Pandas Eat Eucalyptus Leaves?

eucalyptus leaves
Photo Source: Gardening Know How

The simple answer is no. Apparently, eucalyptus leaves are not part of pandas’ diet. They only eat bamboo.

Eucalyptus leaves come from the eucalyptus tree that is native to Australia. This big tall tree is a part of the Myrtaceae family, although a few varieties come in small sizes. Now some animals eat eucalyptus leaves, but are pandas included? 

Some people might be confused with pandas and koalas, interchanging what the two animals eat. Keep in mind that pandas eat bamboo leaves and shoots, whereas koalas eat eucalyptus leaves. Both animals eat completely different types of leaves.

What Animals Eat Eucalyptus Leaves?

koala on the tree eating after eating leaves

As previously mentioned, koalas are included in the animals that eat eucalyptus leaves. They depend almost exclusively on the leaves of eucalyptus trees as their primary source of food. 

Among all mammals, what are known to consume eucalyptus foliage are only the koala and three other marsupials. These marsupials include common ringtail possum, greater glider, and brushtail possum.

Ringtail possums are considered capable of feeding almost dependently on gum leaves if it is necessary for them. Similarly, greater gliders of subgenus Monocalyptus almost solely rely on eucalyptus leaves for food. Moreover, wombats have also been known to eat eucalyptus leaves.

Do Red Pandas Eat Leaves?

red panda eating bamboo leaves

Yes, they do. Red pandas are tagged as russet-furred forest dwellers that spend most of their time in trees. They feed mainly on bamboo leaves and shoots and occasionally snack on insects, small lizards, bird eggs, and some fruits.

Related Questions

To know more about what pandas eat besides leaves, here are a few answers to related questions.

Do Pandas Eat People?

No, they don’t. Despite how cute and cuddly pandas are, they can still sometimes be more dangerous than they look. No matter how adorable you find pandas, you should never approach them in the wild.

Since they have powerful bites and strong grips, they can bite through more than bamboo, enough to harm humans. However, pandas do not eat people, but they might attack humans out of irritation, so still beware.

Maybe pandas can surely be overly aggressive towards humans that they can harm some. But aside from these scenarios being rare, they certainly do not eat people. 

Do Pandas Eat Vegetables?

If you are wondering if pandas eat vegetables, well, they definitely do. The only animal among the world’s bear species that has a vegetarian diet is the panda.

Pandas eat vegetables even though they have bodies that are better equipped to eat meat. However, they apparently like eating some dessert, too.

Do Pandas Eat Fruits?

To answer you, yes, pandas eat fruits, too. The particular fruits that pandas love to eat are apples, and they only snack on them. Specifically, they are fed apples inside the ice during summer to cool them in the hot season.

Do Pandas Eat Other Pandas Or Their Own Babies?

No, they do not eat their own kind or own babies. Giant pandas are solitary animals, as they mostly avoid direct contact with their own kind. There could be times when they are forced to spend time with other pandas.

However, they generally avoid mingling with each other, especially when they are in the wild. With this personality of theirs, they would never dare to eat other pandas or that of their own kind. But then, although they are nearly entirely vegetarian, they sometimes hunt for small rodents, like pikas.

Now you might wonder what happens if pandas give birth to a baby that is likely to die. Perhaps you would ask if pandas eat their own babies. The answer is they could do so, especially if panda moms are close to starving with no other food source.

It is not new for mothers to eat their dying infant for animals like primates, cats, dogs, rodents, and bears. As for panda moms, they sometimes eat their dying offspring, for it becomes a resource they can’t afford to waste. After all, baby pandas that are likely to die are an important source of protein and nutrients that mothers need.

Conclusion

In this article, you have learned that pandas definitely eat leaves, and in particular, they primarily eat bamboo leaves, shoots, stems, and roots. They might be considered carnivores, but they became herbivores for having a plant-based diet due to several factors.

In addition, you also have read that, on average, pandas consume approximately 12 to 15 kilograms of bamboo daily. They also do not eat eucalyptus leaves, unlike animals like koalas and a few mammals, but they do eat vegetables.

Finally, and most importantly, you have learned that pandas do not eat people but can harm some out of irritation. Keep in mind, too, that regardless of how violent pandas and all animals could be, they are still worthy of love.