The native Chinese name for the Giant Panda, Da xiong mao, means "great bear cat." Chinese books written over two thousand years ago endow the giant panda with mystical powers capable of warding off natural disasters and evil spirits. The ancient Chinese emperors kept giant pandas as pets.
The giant panda remained unknown to Westerners until 1869 when native hunters brought French missionary Armand David a dead specimen. He sent the pelt back to the Museum of Natural History in Paris. German zoologist Hugo Weigold was the first Westerner to observe a live giant panda in the wild. In 1929 Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt (sons of former U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt) became the first Westerners to hunt and kill a giant panda. It was not until 1937 that Ruth Harkness and Gerald Russell captured a live giant panda for the first time. It took sixty-seven years from the time of the giant panda's discovery by Westerners until its live capture. During this period twelve well staffed and equipped professional expeditions failed to collect a single live specimen of the giant panda.
The scientific name for the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, means "black and white bear." Scientists debated for decades whether the giant panda was in fact a bear or was instead more closely related to the lesser panda and racoon. In the late 1980s DNA testing confirmed that the giant panda was a bear. Unlike other bears, the giant panda subsists almost entirely on a vegetarian diet of bamboo. An individual panda spends up to fourteen hours each day eating twelve to fourteen kilos of bamboo.
The giant panda is an endangered animal. Only about one thousand individuals remain alive in the wild. All of these inhabit a small region in the bamboo forests of southwestern China.
The giant panda has graced many postage stamps, in part because the panda appears in the official logo of the World Wildlife Fund (World Wide Fund for Nature or WWF). Only a fraction of the many giant panda stamps which have been issued appear here. Many countries have issued stamps under license to the WWF. Most such stamps include the WWF's panda logo. The souvenir sheet at the top of this page was printed for the WWF in Switzerland to commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the WWF.
In the table below, a (*) following a country name indicates that stamp is probably a "Cinderella" issue which is not valid as genuine postage.
|Issuing Country||Year Issued||Scott Catalog Number||Illustration||Remarks|
||Souvenir sheet shows a giant panda, giraffes, a wolf, and a koala bear.|
||Souvenir sheet for animal preservation.|
||Minisheet of eight stamps displays the Giant Panda and other endangered species. Issued to commemorate the 90th anniverary of the Boy Scouts.|
||Shows a single panda.|
||Souvenir sheet shows the giant panda and its favorite food, bamboo.|
||This souvenir sheet, which was never officially issued, shows a giant panda riding a bike.|
||Souvenir sheet with panda logo shows bamboo, the favorite food of the giant panda.|
||One of a set of five stamps depicting zoo animals.|
||Miniature sheet of six with five of the stamps depicting pandas.|
||Souvenir sheet shows pandas nestled in a tree.|
||Souvenir sheet shows pandas feeding.|
||Souvenir sheet shows panda as well as the skyline of Hong Kong.|
||Shows a single seated panda.|
||Commemorates the tenth anniversary of the Japan/China treaty.|
||Shows a panda family.|
||Souvenir sheet shows the giant panda on a map of eastern China and a bird on a map of New Caledonia.|
||This stamp also appears on a souvenir sheet along with five other stamps of wild animals.|
||Shows a single panda.|
||Shows a panda family eating bamboo.|
||Set of six stamps depicting pandas eating, playing, and resting.|
|Russia (Soviet Union)||1964||2906||
||Commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Moscow Zoo.|
||Shows a seated panda.|
||Strip of five stamps each of which depicts the giant panda.|
||This stamp shows the Giant Panda but incorrectly gives the scientific name of the Lesser Panda. One of a set of seven stamps depicting endangered animals. The others are the koala bear, the eagle, the African elephant, the monk seal, the gray whale, other whales, and the tiger.|
||Miniature sheet of nine stamps each depicting the giant panda.|
||Miniature sheet of eight.|
||The U.N. issued this panda stamp as one of four depicting animals in danger of extinction. The other three stamps show the giant armadillo, the bald eagle, and the banded iguana. You may also view the first day cover.|
||One of a set of five animal stamps. The others depict the Giraffe, the Flamingo, the King Penguin, and the White Bengal Tiger.|
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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.