China Readies Panda Census

Posted June 27th, 2011 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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China is preparing to launch a once-a-decade census of its giant panda population to determine how many of the endangered animals are living in the wild.

The official Xinhua news agency said Monday that training has begun in a national reserve in Sichuan province where 70 trackers are conducting a pilot survey. The general census is set to begin in early July. The reserve, near the city of Mianyang, is thought to be home to the largest number of wild pandas in the country.

Authorities say the upcoming census, the fourth since the 1970s, is expected to analyze panda living conditions, as well as age analysis and changes in habitat. Xinhua says scientists will perform DNA analysis on droppings, allowing zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the number living in the wild.

Scientists have in recent decades brought the panda back from the brink of extinction, with census figures from 10 years ago showing 1,596 wild pandas nationwide. About 75 percent of that population was found in Sichuan.