Prospect China

Forget global financial leaders, Chengdu's real stars are its pandas

Justin Chan and Ming Cheang | Special to CNBC
Giant panda cubs lie in a crib at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in September 2013.
Reuters | China Daily

The Group of 20 meeting may have had the spotlight in Chengdu, China, at the weekend but the city's perennial stars are its giant pandas.

For those who don't have time to stay glued to - the live panda-cam operated by the China Network Television with Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding - here's what you need to know about Chengdu's most famous ambassadors.

Giant pandas eat bamboo at noon in Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on February 16, 2016 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province of China.
VCG | VCG | Getty Images

Pandas eat between 12-38 kilograms (26-83 pounds) of bamboo every day.

Although they did have a carnivorous digestive system, like other ursine species, pandas have evolved to consume a diet of almost entirely bamboos.

Source: WWF

The giant panda can only be found on six mountain ranges in the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces in Southwest China.

However, their habitat is thought to have been much larger in the past, with panda fossils discovered as far south as northern Myanmar and as far north as Beijing.

Source: IUCN

Baby giant pandas lie in a line during the opening ceremony of 2016 panda kindergarten at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on October 24, 2015 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province of China

Pandas are incredibly difficult to breed in captivity. A female panda ovulates once a year, and when she does, she only has a 36-40 hour window to breed.

This is complicated by the fact that captive male pandas often don't know how to mate, and a panda pregnancy is hard for even experts to determine.

Wild pandas, however, have reproductive rates similar to that of other bears.

Source: Vice, Smithsonian

This picture shows new-born panda cubs displayed on a cribat the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, southwest of China's Sichuan province.
STR | AFP | Getty Images

Female giant pandas give birth to up to two cubs, although they are unable to care for both twins at the same time in the wild.

Born blind, panda cubs weigh just 132 grams (5 ounces) at birth. Panda cubs are born pure white and only develop their distinctive black patches one to two weeks after birth.

Source: National Geographic

This photo taken on March 24, 2016 shows a panda resting in a tree at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, in Southwest China's Sichuan province.
Greg Baker | AFP | Getty Images

A fully grown giant panda grows up to 1.5 meters (5 foot) in length and will stand about 3 feet tall when on all fours.

They weigh up to 136 kilograms (300 pounds), with males usually weighing more than females.

In the wild, giant pandas have an average life span of 20 years, while pandas living in captivity can reportedly live to 35.

Source: National Geographic, Smithsonian

Paula Bronstein | Getty Images

"Panda diplomacy" began in 1957 when a giant panda presented by China to the Soviet Union as a diplomatic gift.

Today, China lends pandas to zoos around the world for research and breeding purposes. The country's cultural icons currently live in zoos in 14 countries, from the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico to the Adelaide Zoo in Australia.


Giuseppe Cacace | AFP | Getty Images

The logo of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was inspired by Chi-Chi, a giant panda that made her debut at the London Zoo in 1961.

She was met with an overwhelmingly positive response by the general public, and went on to become one of the zoo's star attractions.

The first logo was designed by Sir Peter Scott, one of the WWF's founders, and is now recognized worldwide as a symbol for wildlife conservation.

Source : WWF

Xiao Lu Chu | Getty Images

The Chengdu Panda Research Base and breeding center was set up in March 1987 as part of the Chengdu Zoo's conservation plans.

Since then, It has become an important center for panda conservation, playing a crucial role in increasing wild panda populations over the past 30 years.

The wild population of pandas has grown by nearly 17 percent in the past decade alone.

Source: Chengdu Research Base, WWF