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11 panda facts that are really just an excuse to look at some pandas.

There are a lot of things you might not know about the no longer endangered species.

In September 2016 news broke that the giant panda was no longer considered "endangered" and there was much rejoicing.

Panda party.

Thanks to the incredible conservation efforts of the Chinese government and international groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the species is now classified as "vulnerable." Conservation efforts began back in the 1960s, when four panda reserves were set up in China and hunting the species was outlawed.


It's always a victory when a species starts bouncing back from extinction, but here's so much more to these gentle giants than most people even know.

Here are 11 other awesome reasons to celebrate the great giant panda:

1. Giant pandas have a bone in their wrists that acts like an opposable thumb.

Photo via Virginie Feflour/Getty Images.

Thought apes were the only ones who could grip things like humans? Guess again. Pandas actually have six "digits" on each paw, including something called a radial sesamoid — a bone in their wrist that acts as an extra digit, similar to a thumb, and allows them to hold and munch on thin bamboo rods with ease.

2. Dogs can make great surrogate parents to baby pandas who are abandoned at birth.

That's about the size of a stick of butter. Photo by STR/Getty Images.

While it is rare for a female panda to have twins, if she does, all her attention will go to the larger, more capable cub, and she will abandon the other. This sounds cruel, but it's part of natural selection and, often, the only way any panda cubs survive at all.

Conservationists, however, have discovered dog moms make great substitutes when panda moms reject their young. Dog milk is similar enough to panda milk that if a new dog mom accepts the panda baby into her puppy litter, the baby panda is much more likely to survive.

3. America received its first pair of pandas thanks to President Nixon.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Even though the Cold War was going on, Nixon famously extended an olive branch to Chairman Mao Zedong and the People's Republic of China in 1972.

As a thank-you, Chairman Mao gave America its first two giant pandas: Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling. An estimated 75 million visitors got to see them throughout their long lives at the National Zoo.

4. Female giant pandas only ovulate once a year.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Once a year, female giant pandas become fertile for a mere two to three days. This extremely tight procreation window makes the species' population increase all the more significant and amazing, especially considering females often only have one or two babies at a time.

5. Their bamboo diet is actually not very nutritious.

Photo by Peter Parks/Getty Images.

The giant panda diet consists almost entirely of bamboo, which is rather lacking in nutrients. As such, the species is known to eat an estimated 26-48 pounds of bamboo a day.

6. While the species has been upgraded from "endangered" to "vulnerable," climate change may hurt the giant pandas' population growth and land it back on the endangered species list.

Tourist looking at bamboo forest. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

Due to the giant pandas' proclivity for bamboo (and need to eat a lot of it), the species could end up back on the endangered species list because climate change is predicted to eliminate 35% of pandas' bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.

7. Giant pandas play a vital role in the conservation of bamboo forests.

Photo by John Thys/Getty Images.

While eating all that bamboo, giant pandas are helping spread bamboo seeds around, which in turn helps new bamboo plants grow. In saving the giant pandas, China is saving the bamboo forests, and all the other species that live in them.

8. Giant pandas might look like roly-poly land dwellers, but they're actually magnificent tree climbers.

Photo by Karen Bleier/Getty Images.

Their broad paws and retractable claws are extremely helpful in all tree-climbing scenarios.

9. Giant pandas communicate by rubbing their butts on things.

Photo by Roslan Rahman/Getty Images.

Pandas don't see too well, but they have a great sense of smell. When they want to send a message, they rub their anal glands on the ground, rocks, and trees. The message could be anything from, "Hey, let's meet up here!" to "I'm looking to get busy with a mate!"

10. They've got huge molars to crush all those bamboo stalks.

Photo by Paul Bronstein/Getty Images.

The giant panda's diet is 1% carnivorous (meaning, 99% of what they eat is vegetation, though they've been known to eat meat on occasion); giant pandas have the largest molars of all carnivores. Of course, unlike their carnivore cousins, giant pandas use them for crushing bamboo stalks rather than bone.

11. Because the species is elusive and lives in remote, getting an accurate count for the giant panda population is challenging.

The process of estimating the growth of the giant panda population has been one of the most extensive in history for one entire species.

Giant panda hiding (not really). Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images.

The official estimate of their numbers is 2,060, but studies have shown there might actually be more like 2,500 to 3,000 out there in the world today.

Whatever the number is, hopefully it will continue going up. There's still much to be done in terms of conservation, but all things considered, the giant panda is definitely on the right track.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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