Poo, Peas and Pandas - Part 2

How big is a Giant Panda Poo? Here's the answer!

It’s okay everyone, you can roll up your tape measures and cast aside any Giant panda poo you may have laying around, because the answer to the burning question of just how big is a Giant panda poo, has been well and truly answered.

The question of just how big is a Giant panda poo was first asked a couple of months ago, when National Poo Museum Director Daniel Roberts was contacted by an author who was in need of some extremely precise Giant panda poo dimensions for a book he was working on. (For the full story please see blog post Poos, Peas and Pandas.) Since the TNPM has no Giant panda poo in its collection, Daniel put this question of panda poo size to some of the zoos around the world that house Giant pandas. It was the lovely people at Adelaide Zoo in Australia and Zoo Atlanta in the United States, who were kind enough to respond to Daniel’s request for help, and they provided him with all the information he needed to help the author with his research. And so folks, if you’ve ever been the tiniest bit curious about Giant panda poo, here it is in all its glory.

Two Giant Panda poos - small pellets containing bits of part-digested bamboo

Four Giant Panda poos - small pellets containing bits of part-digested bamboo

The yellow poos indicate the panda has been eating the stem of the bamboo, whereas the green examples show the panda has enjoyed a meal of bamboo leaves. According to Lucy Catt, Senior keeper of Pandas at Adelaide Zoo, Giant pandas tend to eat more leaf such as Arrow leaf, Chinese Temple and Golden leaf during the summer months, then in winter the pandas transition to the thicker, bulkier culm Bamboo, such as Giant Timber. The orange bits that look like carrots in both the green and yellow panda droppings, are indeed carrots! Apparently the pandas at Adelaide Zoo are given them to eat during their training sessions.

Interestingly, scientists in China have shown giant pandas’ gut microbiota (the tiny organisms naturally found in the intestine) have not adapted particularly well to deal with bamboo. In fact, according to recent research, Giant pandas still retain the gut of carnivores. Although they spend up to 14 hours a day chomping through plants, stems and leaves, the poor old Giant panda can only digest approximately 17% of what they consume.

Back at Adelaide Zoo, their Giant pandas munch their way through 30kg of bamboo per panda, per day! When they’re not eating, the pandas are sleeping…and pooing presumably! According to Michelle Kolar from Zoo Atlanta, the average size adult Giant panda poo is 15cm x 7cm, (6”x 3”) and she should know, because she managed to persuade one of her team members to measure one especially for The National Poo Museum!

The National Poo Museum would like to thank both Lucy Catt Senior Keeper of Pandas and Native Animals at Adelaide Zoo, for her extremely helpful information and photographs, and Michelle Kolar from Zoo Atlanta for sending her animal care team off into the Giant panda enclosure with a tape measure!

Nicola Winsland