Among the order Carnivora, the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is one of the most attractive animals, possessing high value for scientific research and being a symbol of worldwide nature conservation. In early 1980s, the Chinese government, cooperating with the WWF in initiated a research project on wild giant pandas in Wolong Nature Reserve. Since then, extensive research activities have been conducted in different mountain ranges inhabited by the animal. The application of new techniques such as 3S (GIS, RS, GPS)and molecular markers in the ecological study of the giant panda has greatly improved our understanding of its ecology. To date,a huge body of knowledge and information has been accumulated, potentially helpful for developing adaptive conservation strategies. In this paper, we summarize research findings and progress in understanding the ecology of wild giant pandas during the past 30 years on various aspects, including habitat ecology, feeding ecology, reproductive ecology, behavioral ecology, molecular ecology, population ecology and community ecology. Meanwhile, given the demands of research and management, future research directions are suggested.