Rare images show panda trying to seize territory in northwest China

Experts say behaviour captured on surveillance cameras shows wild panda population is growing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 3:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 3:49pm

A series of images of a panda trying to seize territory from other pandas in the wild has been captured by surveillance cameras in northwest China.

The rare images were described by experts as an exciting indication that the wild panda population in China was growing, state news agency Xinhua reported on Thursday.

In the images released by the Shaanxi Foping National Nature Reserve, a panda is seen carrying a cub in her mouth as she makes her way along a mountain path. The footage showed the pair did not stay long in the area, according to the report.

But a few weeks later, another adult panda was caught on camera on the same path, pacing back and forth near a tree.

Experts said that panda returned to the path on other occasions over the next six months, sniffing around in the same area.

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The latest images from the surveillance cameras – about six months since the mother and cub was first spotted – show the panda in the same place, where experts told Xinhua he marked his territory by rubbing and urinating on the tree.

They said it was unusual to see different adult pandas in the same area.

China has invested heavily in panda conservation in recent decades, establishing nature reserves, planting bamboo forests and setting up breeding programmes. It also plans to open a huge Giant Panda National Park in 2020, linking dozens of isolated habitats.

Panda numbers have rebounded in the past decade because of conservation efforts – WWF put the wild population at 1,864 in 2015, far fewer than 40 years ago but up slightly from the last survey in 2003 – prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature last year to lower its status from “endangered” to “vulnerable”.

But a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution in September found that the habitat of giant pandas had become smaller and more fragmented over the past four decades, shrinking by 4.9 per cent from 1976 to 2001 overall.

The numbers improved slightly from 2001 to 2013 thanks to conservation work, but the recovery failed to offset habitat loss in the past, according to the researchers, who said road construction, logging and earthquakes had contributed to previous habitat loss, and a recent increase in tourism had added to the problem.