China starts panda census

June 28th, 2011 - 10:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 28 (IANS) China has started its once-a-decade census of the endangered giant panda, according to forest authorities in Sichuan province, a major habitat of the rare species.

The census - the fourth since it was first launched in the 1970s - began with a pilot survey in the Wanglang National Reserve in Mianyang, which is believed to have the largest number of wild pandas in the country, said Yang Xuyu, an official with the provincial forest administration.

About 70 trackers are currently being trained at the nature reserve for the census, he said.

The pilot survey is expected to end by July, and then the nationwide census will start, he added.

The trackers will collect panda droppings for DNA analysis, which will allow zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the number living in the wild.

The census is expected to ascertain not only the number of wild pandas but also their living conditions and age structure.

The previous census 10 years ago counted 1,596 wild pandas in China. There were 1,206 in Sichuan, including 230 in the Wanglang reserve.

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