Archive for May, 2011
Liang Chunping and Luo Chunping are members of one of the world’s smallest professions. They are wild panda trackers employed by the Wanglang National Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, home to nearly 300 giant pandas.
Liang and Luo, both at their 30s, share the same given name and the same passion for nature. They joined the reserve after leaving the army ten years ago and have been chasing giant pandas through the bamboo forests of the reserve ever since. They were trained by zoologists, but mainly rely on their instincts and physical fitness to keep pace with their surprisingly sprightly and elusive quarry.
The trackers are currently collecting preliminary data for China’s fourth national Giant Panda census, due to take place in June. The previous census counted 1,200 wild pandas in Sichuan Province, including 260 in the Wanglang reserve.
When three reporters from china.org.cn joined them, Liang and Luo were collecting images and data from 36 infrared cameras recently installed around the 322-square-kilometer reserve. They also collect Panda droppings for DNA analysis. The DNA allows zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the number of pandas living in the wild.
Wanglang is the first reserve to use infrared cameras. Camera surveillance allows researchers to monitor the activities of the pandas at different seasons and weather patterns, and helps with conservation planning. Other reserves are likely to follow suit.
If trekking through mountain foliage sounds tough, the reality is even tougher. There are no paths at all and the reporters struggled to keep up with the trackers — who kindly pointed out they would normally cover the same ground in one third of the time.
People think pandas are fat and clumsy, Liang said. But that’s because they only see them in zoos. In their natural habitat things are very different.
“Wild pandas have very acute sense of hearing and smell. They are actually very agile,” said Liang, “A 20-minute route for a wild panda would take a human two hours,” he said. Tracking pandas is hard work even for the professionals it seems.
Luo and Liang stopped from time to time to sniff tree trunks for panda urine and check bamboo stalks for bite marks. Whenever they find a trace of panda activity they use their GPS to record the exact location. They also collect trash left by careless hikers.
As we were finally running out of breath at an attitude of 2,975 meters, we arrived at a camera emplacement. Luo and Liang carefully took the camera from its hiding place amid bamboo stalks. Luckily, the camera had captured two images of a panda, one of its head and the other of its rear. The camera recorded the panda visited at 6 pm on April 17.
After retrieving the information they needed, the patrollers replaced the camera. Regularly checking the cameras is now part of their daily routine.
Asked if he ever gets bored living in the mountains with no cell phone connection, TV or Internet, Luo said, “If you stay here long enough, you fall in love with the fresh air and the amazing views. Every day brings a new challenge. The reserve is my home, and there’s no place like home.”
MAI, 13 May 2011 (NNT) – Mother panda Lin Hui might be pregnant again after going through an artificial insemination due to her display of pregnancy signs while officials are keeping a close observation during this period.
Mr Prasertsak Boontrakulpoonthawee, chief of the panda research project at Chiang Mai Zoo, indicated that after the second attempt to artificially inseminate Lin Hui, early signs of pregnancy had been detected. The mother panda is reportedly developing behavioral changes, such as sleeping and eating more than usual as well as being extra cautious in her movements. Physical and hormonal changes have also been discovered.
Mr Prasertsak assured that authorities would keep a close eye on Lin Hui, especially over the next two months when more indications of pregnancy were anticipated if any. As the mother carried her first cub Lin Ping for 97 days, the research chief projected that her next baby would take her a comparable amount of time before delivery.
On 27 May this year, Chiang Mai Zoo is scheduled to organize a celebration for Lin Ping on the occasion of her second birthday anniversary. The event will, at the same time, welcome China’s permission for the panda cub to stay in Thailand for two more years as well as the chance for Lin Hui to give birth to the new baby in the near future.
Source: Focus TaiWan News Channel
Taipei, May 12 (CNA) A giant panda called Yuan Yuan at Taipei Zoo has lost her appetite somewhat, is sleeping more than usual and has been behaving like a cat on hot bricks since last week, the chief zookeeper said Thursday.
“We can only say at the moment there is a possibility that she may be pregnant,” said Taipei Zoo Director Jason Yeh.
Yeh was responding to a United Daily News report Thursday that Yuan Yuan, one of the two pandas donated by China in 2008 to signify improved relations across the Taiwan Strait, may be expecting because she has been showing signs of pregnancy, such as poor appetite, long hours of sleep and restlessness.
According Yeh, Yuan Yuan’s appetite has fallen off, with her daily intake of bamboo decreasing from 7-to-8 kilograms to 1.3 kg and her carrot intake falling from 800 grams to 100 grams.
Meanwhile, her daily sleep time has increased from 10 hours to 15 hours and she has seldom been going to the outdoor playground, he said.
“After consulting with giant panda experts at the Wolong Panda Base in China’s Sichuan Province, we have tentatively concluded that Yuan Yuan is expecting,” Yeh said.
Citing Chinese panda experts, Yeh said Yuan Yuan was showing signs very similar to when her mother Lei Lei was expecting her.
“Nevertheless, we cannot say for sure that she is pregnant because a supersonic examination did not detect a fetus,” Yeh said.
Yuan Yuan and the male Tuan Tuan both showed signs of estrus between Feb. 7 and Feb. 12, but they did not mate, the zoo said.
Zookeepers collected sperm from Tuan Tuan for artificial insemination of Yuan Yuan on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10.
“Since March 19, Yuan Yuan has been having daily supersonic inspection, but she started resisting the inspections this week and has been getting agitated whenever a vet approaches her,” Yeh said.
“Chinese experts have advised us not to force Yuan Yuan to have any examination for the time being because her temperament may have changed significantly due to hormonal fluctuations,” Yeh said.
According to China’s records, female pandas can sometimes pretend to be pregnant, Yeh said.
“Even if Yuan Yuan is indeed pregnant, she will not have a big belly because a baby panda usually weighs only slightly more than 100 grams,” Yeh said.
The gestation period for caged pandas ranges between 70 days and 300 days, Yeh said, adding that panda pregnancy can be ascertained only 15 days before birth using a supersonic detector.
Nine-month-old Taotao is a giant panda undergoing wilderness survival training at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province.
Taotao was born to a captive father and a wild mother, Caocao, in Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an, just south of Wenchuan. He was selected for Wolong’s wilderness training as part of a program that aims to improve the survival rate of captive pandas when they are released into the wild.
“We have begun selecting cubs of wild pandas for the wilderness training so the babies can learn survival skills from their wild mothers directly,” said Wu Daifu, a worker at the Wolong station.
But time is still needed to see whether Taotao can survive in the wilderness. The wilderness training program only resumed last June, after its first and only panda to complete the training died less than a year after he was released into the wild in 2006.
“We are still at the stage of exploring and researching,” Wu said. “It [the wilderness training program] is still full of uncertainties.”
Pandas in the wilderness program go through three stages of training before being introduced into nature. Taotao has finished the first stage, five months in a 3,000-square-meter enclosure. He still had contact with humans, but workers minimized direct contact by wearing special panda-like clothing that seal off human scents.
Taotao and his mother have now transferred to their second training area, a much bigger enclosure of 40,000 square meters. Nearly 50 cameras are placed around the enclosure to observe their daily activities.
In addition, workers will give Taotao a physical check every three months. Wu said the second stage of training may last a year, after which Taotao will be transferred to a still bigger enclosure of 240,000 square meters.
The facility, which is expected to be completed by 2012, will cover an area of about 51 hectares in China’s southwest Sichuan province and will cost 210 million yuan ($32 million). The Hong Kong government will provide 130 million yuan for the project, with the rest of the funding coming from private investors.
The center’s mission will be rescuing giant pandas living the wild and carrying out research on disease prevention and control for the endangered species, said Zhang Hemin, chief of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
“The facility will not only separate pandas’ breeding and disease treatment, but also prevent cross infections of pandas and human beings, because we sometimes have to take them to human hospitals for treatment,” Zhang added.
Giant pandas are among the world’s most endangered species. Over the last 20 years Chinese zoologists have raised 315 pandas in captivity.
Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show that about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, with another 300 living in zoos around the world
Edinburgh Zoo Update;
The date has absolutely not been confirmed for the arrival of the pandas, although it is true all parties plan to be prepared for the arrival from July onwards. Work on the enclosure and on plans for their arrival is well underway and on schedule. We have always anticipated the arrival of the pandas during 2011 and will be very ready to welcome them from July onwards, however this does not mean that the arrival will be in July. Between now and the date of their arrival, we are still to welcome a team from the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association to approve the enclosure, as well as continued visits by the animal department management team, who will look after them, to the Ya’an reserve in China to spend more time with Tian Tian and Yuang Guang before their arrival.
We would urge anyone planning to book their holidays or tickets around a visit to Edinburgh Zoo to see the giant pandas not to make firm booking plans yet.