Count on cute: China kicks off panda census
Giant pandas play at the China Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, June 5, 2008, in Wolong Nature Reserve of Sichuan Province, China. / Getty
BEIJING - China has counted its 1.34 billion people; now it's the pandas' turn.
After conducting a census of its human population last year, China is about to start a once-every-10-years count of giant pandas in the wild.
The official China Daily reported more than 60 trackers were trained at Wanglang National Reserve in the southwestern province of Sichuan, which is believed to have the largest number of wild pandas in China.
They will collect droppings for DNA analysis, which will allow zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the population, Chen Youping, director of the reserve's administrative bureau, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.
The census is also expected to reveal more on living conditions, age structure and changes of habitat of the endangered species.
The last census counted 1,596 wild pandas in China, 1,206 of which were living in Sichuan.
Wild pandas are threatened by a loss of habitat, poaching and for being poor breeders. Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two or three years.
Fertility rates of captive giant pandas -- of which there are more than 300 in China -- are even lower.
Xinhua said the trackers will start a pilot survey at the nature reserve this week that is expected to end by early July, before carrying out the nationwide panda census -- the fourth since they began in the 1970s.
The human census last year showed the country with the world's largest population had swelled to 1.34 billion.
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