Jul 8

Giant pandas are iconic species, with their black-and-white markings and seemingly huggable appearance. With the recent release of Kung Fu Panda 2, I have been investigating whether a panda actually could become the next world kung fu master!

Healthy diet

Giant pandas are well known for their diet of bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo. Whilst a diet of vegetation sounds pretty healthy, bamboo actually has a poor nutritional value. Adult giant pandas need to spend around 14 hours a day eating! Pandas spend their time alternately feeding and resting throughout the day and night. That doesn’t leave much time for kung fu!

Not enough energy: Kung Fu Panda rating 2/10

Strength

Although gentle in demeanour, giant pandas are actually very strong. Around the size of an American black bear, males can weigh up to 125 kilograms. Giant pandas may look cute but they’re just as dangerous as any other bear.

You wouldn’t want to mess with the giant panda: Kung Fu Panda rating 9/10

Photo of a giant panda feeding

Giant panda feeding

Speed

Giant pandas definitely aren’t the athletes of the animal kingdom. Instead of hunting for prey, they spend their time chewing bamboo lazily. A diet of bamboo, with its low nutritional value, accounts for the giant panda’s slow speed.

Needs to work on its sprinting: Kung Fu Panda rating 1/10

Photo of a panda feeding on bamboo

A giant pandas bamboo diet doesn't provide enough energy for them to sprint

Stealth 

Giant pandas are shy and elusive animals. Their black-and-white markings provide good camouflage in their shady bamboo forest habitat, making them very hard to spot.

Giant pandas have the element of surprise: Kung Fu Panda rating 8/10

A typical giant panda habitat

Agility

Traditionally, kung fu masters need to be agile to be successful. Although pandas can climb trees, they’re certainly not known for their agility. Instead, these chunky bears lumber clumsily around their forest habitat. Luckily, Po – the star of Kung Fu Panda 2 – succeeds in becoming a kung fu master when his clumsiness helps him to win his battles.

A surprising triumph for clumsiness over agility: Kung Fu Panda rating 9/10

Photo of a young giant panda climbing a tree

Young giant panda climbing a tree

Total Kung Fu Panda rating

Stealthy and strong, but needs to work on its speed: 29/50

Here’s an example of how NOT to be a panda kung fu master. Pretty cute though!

Although the giant panda might not be adapted to a life of martial arts, it’s well adapted to life in China’s bamboo forests. A diet of bamboo isn’t much good for a kung fu star, but bamboo is abundant in the giant panda’s habitat and provides a year round food source. That’s good news for the pandas – and for any wannabe kung fu masters out there! You won’t have any competition from giant pandas. Unless it’s a bamboo eating competition.

Ruth Hendry, ARKive Media Researcher

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