Stories tagged panda populations

Jun
22
2006

Happy pandas: Two new studies show significant increases in panda population numbers. But the debate is still open on if the increase is due to better panda habitat or better counting methods.
Happy pandas: Two new studies show significant increases in panda population numbers. But the debate is still open on if the increase is due to better panda habitat or better counting methods.
Here’s some good news…especially if you’re a panda bear living in China.

A couple recent studies are showing an upturn in panda populations. But the reasons for the greater number of the furry creatures are still being debated.

Researchers now think that there are about twice as many pandas living in the Wanglang Nature Reserve – a 123-square-mile preserve in southwestern China – than were previously believed. The researchers have hiked up their numbers based on DNA samples they’ve collected in Wanglang.

Through the study, it’s now believed that 66 to 72 pandas live in the region, up from the previous estimate of 32.

Those researchers believe the increased panda numbers are the result of several factors: natural population growth, migration from other areas and a logging ban near the preserve which has maintained suitable habitat for pandas. They were also excited to find out a rich diversity in the genetic material they’ve found around the preserve, boding well for strong panda population growth in the coming years.

In a wider survey project of panda populations in China, a four-year census shows a 45-percent increase in the number of bears sighted in the past four years. That count found 1,590 wild pandas compared to 1,100 found during the last census in the 1980s.

But this might not be just the result of improved panda habitat over that time. Researchers admit that they are now using more accurate census techniques. The latest census went higher and deeper into the bamboo-filled mountains that pandas favor to live in. Most of the numbers were put together in previous censuses without actually seeing the pandas that were counted.

The new census, for the first time, used global positioning technology in finding some of the pandas. Counters also looked for chewed up bamboo shoots and the distinctive teeth marks different pandas would leave on the shoots after their meals.

But researchers also note that China has dedicated more land to panda habitat than ever before. There are now 40 panda reserves across the country compared to just 13 a couple decades ago. As the panda numbers continue to climb, some panda enthusiasts worry about another potential problem. Some of the panda preserves are now looking at ways of expanding tourism to their sites.

What do you think? Should people be able to come look at the pandas in the wild as their numbers continue to grow? Has too much, or too little, been done to help this endangered species?