A team of researchers from Michigan State University electronically stalked five giant pandas in the wild via GPS collars, giving the world a glimpse into the social lives of China’s reclusive bamboo-eating bears.
Giant pandas, formally known as Ailuropoda melanoleuca, reside in a few mountain ranges in central China across Sichuan Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) indicates that the giant panda is not only amongst the most threatened animals in the world, it’s also the rarest member of the bear family.
In the study, which was published in this month’s edition of the journal Mammalogy, researchers collared and tracked a total of five pandas in southwest China’s Wolong Nature Reserve. The bears were tracked for a span of two years; from 2010 to 2012.
For more than a decade, the Chinese government banned the placement of GPS collars on the endangered bears in a move to protect the species. These days, there have been a handful of studies which have tracked them, however, this recent study conducted by researchers at MSU has provided additional insight into the movements and social interactions of pandas.
Vanessa Hull, a research associate at MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, was quoted in an MSU Today report as having said that “it’s very hard to observe” the elusive species in the wild. She went on to say that while the bears were renowned loners, the data collected indicated that “they were in the same location” as one another and that it “clearly wasn’t just a fluke.”
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 […] We can see it clearly wasn’t just a fluke. We could see they were in the same locations, which we never would have expected for that length of time and at that time of year
In China, an animal more rare than the giant panda was spotted for the first time in twenty years. The rare rabbit-relative known as Ili pika or just “pika” for short are believed to be less than a thousand strong in their natural habitat.