Panda Food: Local Sourcing for Two of the Zoo’s Most Popular Residents

January 01, 2014
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The Memphis Zoo started growing bamboo in 2000 at the Agricenter in anticipation of the pandas’ arrival in 2003. Seven different bamboo species are grown — Phyllostachys nuda, P. aurea, P. aureasulcatta, P. bisetti, P. gluaca, P. rubromarginata, and Pseudosasa japonica. If offered a choice, pandas can be choosy about their bamboo (just like people with their foods). The pandas’ preferences also change throughout the year. Sometimes they prefer stalks, and sometimes it’s the leaves that tempt their taste buds.

Panda eating bamboo

The Memphis Zoo is one of the few zoos in the country with giant pandas, and Ya Ya and Le Le are major stars. Each panda eats between 20 and 40 pounds of bamboo every day. When served the larger stems, called culms, the pandas strip off the outside “rind” before eating. It’s a time-consuming process. Pandas can spend 10 to 16 hours eating each day.

The bamboo needs to be kept fresh. It has a pretty short shelf life — it will wilt in just a few hours if it is not kept cool and moist. However, in optimal conditions, cut bamboo can be preserved for several days. Dig in pandas!

See the pandas “eating local” on the Memphis Zoo Panda Cam •

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