The Secret Life of Giant Pandas

Reclusive giant pandas fascinate the world, yet precious little is known about how they spend their time in the Chinese bamboo forests--until now. A team of Michigan State University (MSU) researchers who have been electronically stalking five pandas in the wild, courtesy of rare GPS collars, have finished crunching months of data and published some panda surprises online on March 27, 2015 in the Journal of Mammalogy. "Pandas are such an elusive species and it's very hard to observe them in wild, so we haven't had a good picture of where they are from one day to the next," said Vanessa Hull, Ph.D., a research associate at MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). Dr. Jindong Zhang, a co-author on the paper and postdoctoral researcher at CSIS continues "This was a great opportunity to get a peek into the panda's secretive society that has been closed off to us in the past." Dr. Hull adds, "Once we got all the data in the computer we could see where they go and map it. It was so fascinating to sit down and watch their whole year unfold before you like a little window into their world." The five pandas - three female adults named Pan Pan, Mei Mei, and Zhong Zhong, a young female named Long Long and a male named Chuan Chuan - were captured, collared, and tracked from 2010 to 2012, in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwest China. The Chinese government is protective of its endangered pandas and for more than a decade banned putting GPS collars on them. While a handful of studies have tracked some, this is one of the first times technology has been used that provided more detail on the pandas' movements and how they interact with one another over time. One of the biggest surprises was that the pandas seemed to spend significant time together sometimes.
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