WHY ARE PANDAS ENDANGERED?
According to Chinese literature, giant pandas were once found in forests throughout southern and central China within the last 500 years. Today they are restricted to isolated pockets of high-altitude forest in Sichuan and adjacent provinces south of the central Qinling Mountains.
However, the researchers are hampered by the terrain as panda country is largely uninhabited and inaccessible with steep mountains divided by deep and densely wooded ravines. Furthermore, the pandas themselves do not take too kindly to being watched!
Research teams have developed a variety of techniques for getting around this problem. One of the basic ones is to collect panda droppings and analyse them. Since much of the bamboo eaten by pandas passes straight through their digestive system, it is possible to find out which bamboos are the pandas preferred varieties, how old it needs to be and which specific part of the plant is eaten.
Rather more sophisticated is the use of radio-tracking equipment. This involves capturing a panda, equipping it with a collar fixed with a miniature radio transmitter and then releasing the panda back into its native habitat. The transmitter provides information about the panda’s position and pulse rate. With this information, a researcher can monitor the panda’s movement, position and pulse rate and deduce whether the panda is sleeping, eating, or even ready to mate!
The researches have two main priorities:
1. To prevent a recurrence of the bamboo famine disaster of 1975
2. To improve the pandas breeding rate.
More positively, there are plans to plant different species of bamboo alongside each other in the panda habitats in order to ensure that there is always some bamboo to eat. Another idea is to establish ‘bamboo corridors’ linking the various existing reserves. This would allow the animals to migrate if necessary, and hopefully encourage interbreeding between populations.
The breeding problem among captive pandas may never be solved by natural means, but the technique of artificial insemination has been used with some success. One difficulty here is detecting when the female is receptive. This is critical since the female panda is only in heat for three days in the year!
By regular testing for hormone levels in the urine, a vet can determine the ideal moment to introduce the males sperm, which is kept frozen and ready for use.
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Based on an article from MXM IMP BV/IMP LTD Wildlife Fact-file
Images care of https://sites.google.com/site/mabiology10533/classroom-pictures and http://rhabwar-troll-stock.deviantart.com/art/Panda-Environment-179955495