Are There Pandas In Japan?

When you think of the habitat of a panda, you probably are picturing bamboo forests in Asia, right? But where exactly in Asia do these beautiful creatures live? Do any pandas call Japan home? 

Do pandas live in Japan? Both of the species of pandas (the giant panda and the red panda) can only be found in one region of the world. Both of these animals are only found in certain parts of Asia, but Japan is not one of them. Only pandas in Japan are the ones in zoos.

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Where do giant pandas live? 

Giant pandas can be found in a handful of mountain ranges in south-central China. Providence wise, these bears can only be found in the Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. They live in coniferous forests that have a lot of bamboos (these bears sure love bamboo!). The forests that pandas call home have a high elevation (about 5,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level) and from the rain and heavy mist over the forest, the giant panda’s habitat is often shrouded in clouds. 

Giant pandas used to live in the lowland areas in these provinces, but due to farming, deforestation, and other human development, giant pandas can only be found in the mountain ranges in China.  

Where do red pandas live? 

Red pandas have a bit of a larger range. Red pandas can be found in China, Nepal, India, and Tibet. For comparison, the provinces in China where a red panda can be found are Myanmar, Sichuan, and Yunnan. Like the giant panda, red pandas can be found in high altitude forests with lots of bamboos for them to eat.  

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Were pandas ever native to Japan? 

Pandas were never native animals in Japan. But that does not mean that the people of Japan love pandas any less. In fact, psychologists note that pandas seem to be more popular in Japan than in any other part of the world. 

The first time a panda was ever recorded as being “discovered” was in 1860s China by a French missionary. Pandas were then brought overseas to the United States and England in the 1930s to live in zoos, but pandas did not arrive in zoos in Japan until 1972. The first panda to ever come to Japan lived at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. And people fell in love with them!  

Pandas are still one of the most popular animals in Japan today (in 2017 the Ueno Zoo welcomed baby panda Shan-Shan) and experts think it is because in Japanese culture, there is a higher value in “cute” as opposed to “cool.” And how cute are pandas?! 

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What are the differences between giant pandas and red pandas? 

Even though they both have the word “panda” in their name, giant pandas and red pandas are actually not related! Giant pandas are part of the bear family (like black bears and grizzly bears), where red pandas are part of the Ailuridae family (the red panda is the only living member of this family).

The giant panda and the red panda are both native only to Asia and they can be found inhabiting the continent’s bamboo forests. But besides that, these two animals are pretty different. 

Giant panda vs red panda
Giant panda vs red panda

The giant panda is much bigger than the red panda. The giant panda can grow to be up to six feet tall and weigh up to 300 pounds. On the other hand, red pandas are usually only about two feet in length and they only weigh about ten pounds. They also look very different.

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Red pandas have a bit of a raccoon-like body and a long bushy tail. They are also covered in soft, red fur. Giant pandas have a more bear-like shaped body with a short, stubby tail. And of course, giant pandas are black and white. 

Additionally, red pandas spend most of their time up in trees – in fact, red pandas really only go on the ground to give birth. And while giant pandas are good climbers, they rarely spend time in the trees. Instead, giant pandas can be found on the ground.

Giant pandas also have a longer life expectancy (they live for about 20 years) than red pandas (their life expectancy is about 15 years). 

Pandas in Japan
Pandas in Japan