How China's booming panda business works

Pandas are a big business -- and the zoos lucky enough to receive a loan face tremendous costs.

Cost of raising pandas

panda bamboo

Caring for a panda can easily cost over $1 million a year, said Dave Towne, president of the Giant Panda Conservation Foundation for North America. Aside from trainers and medical care, pandas need to eat -- and they're fussy customers who eat a lot.

Scotland's two pandas chomp through nearly 40,000 pounds, or more than $100,000, of imported, organic bamboo a year. Hong Kong's pandas, on the other hand, are locavores, eating five different species of bamboo grown in Southern China. Bamboo shortages are also a risk: A few years ago, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. sought bamboo donations as it pandas had munched too quickly through their supply.

Pandas are only able to absorb 17% of the nutrients, and since they're quite heavy -- sometimes weighing 300 pounds -- they tend to sleep for 12 hours a day to conserve energy, said Suzanne Gendron, director of the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation in Hong Kong.

- Last updated October 15 2013 05:00 AM ET
Join the Conversation