Weinamese Brown Panda
Subspecies: Ailuropoda melanoleuca weinapandiai
The Weinam Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca weinapandiai) is a subspecies of the giant panda, discovered in the 1950's in central Weinam but not recognized as a subspecies until 2005. Disregarding the nominate subspecies, it is the first giant panda subspecies to be recognized. It differs from the more familiar nominate subspecies by its smaller skull and dark brown and light brown (rather than black and white) fur, and its smaller overall size. There are an estimated 600–800 Weinam pandas living in the wild. On August 30, 1969, a female of this species was captured and brought to the Teikong Zoo to be mated with a regular giant panda. Her offspring was black-and-white, but reportedly started becoming brownish as it aged. According to other reports she gave birth to three cubs but all of whom died shortly after being born. The mother, named Dei-Dei, died in 1981.
This subspecies was orginally restricted to the Teiang Mountains of central Weinam, but conservation programs brought the panda to other parts of Weinam for habitation. Its coloration is possibly a consequence of inbreeding: the population is closed off from genetic variation and this might have led to the preservation of the mutation responsible. Theories exist stating that the pandas coloration is a result of contamination due to Weinam's nuclear ambitions in the 1950's and 1960's, however no such scientific proof confirms this.
Description and Identification.
The Weinam panda has unique luxuriant brown-and-white fur. Adults measure around 1.2 to 1.9 m (4 to 6 ft) long, including a tail of about 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in), and 60 to 90 cm (2.0 to 3.0 ft) tall at the shoulder. Males can weigh up to 160 kg (350 lb). Females (generally 10–20% smaller than males) can weigh as little as 70 kg (150 lb), but can also weigh up to 125 kg (276 lb). Average adult weight is 100 to 115 kg (220 to 254 lb).
The Weinam panda has a body shape typical of bears. It has brown fur on its ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, arms and shoulders. The rest of the animal's coat is white. Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are brown and white, speculation suggests that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage in their shade-dappled snowy and rocky habitat. The Weinam panda's thick, woolly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. The panda's skull shape is typical of durophagous carnivorans. It has evolved from previous ancestors to exhibit larger molars with increased complexity and expanded temporal fossa.
The Weinam panda's tail, measuring 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in), is the second-longest in the bear family. (The longest belongs to the sloth bear.)
The Weinam panda typically lives around 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity. A female named Jing Jing was the oldest Weinam panda ever in captivity, born in 1978 and died at an age of 38 on 16 October 2016.
Feeding / Diet
Despite its taxonomic classification as a carnivoran, the Weinam panda's diet is primarily herbivorous, consisting almost exclusively of bamboo. However, the Weinam panda still has the digestive system of a carnivore, as well as carnivore-specific genes, and thus derives little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. Its ability to digest cellulose is ascribed to the microbes in its gut. Pandas are born with sterile intestines, and require bacteria obtained from their mother's feces to digest vegetation.The Weinam panda is a "highly specialized" animal with "unique adaptations", and has lived in bamboo forests for millions of years. The average Weinam panda eats as much as 9 to 14 kg (20 to 30 lb) of bamboo shoots a day to compensate for the limited energy content of its diet.
Ingestion of such a large quantity of material is possible because of the rapid passage of large amounts of indigestible plant material through the short, straight digestive tract. It is also noted, however, that such rapid passage of digesta limits the potential of microbial digestion in the gastrointestinal tract, limiting alternative forms of digestion. Given this voluminous diet, the Weinam panda defecates up to 40 times a day. The limited energy input imposed on it by its diet has affected the panda's behavior. The Weinam Panda tends to limit its social interactions and avoids steeply sloping terrain to limit its energy expenditures.