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UPDATED: May 22, 2012
Panda Census and DNA Collection Begins in NW China

Forestry authorities in northwest China's Gansu Province said Monday that they have started the first wide-ranging census and DNA collection on endangered wild giant pandas.

Zoologists will comb forests in southern Gansu's city of Longnan and nine counties in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture to track individual wild pandas, said Ouyang Feng, who works with the giant panda protection office of the Gansu provincial forestry bureau.

The census in Gansu, one of the major habitats of giant pandas, is part of a once-a-decade nationwide panda census ordered last year by the state forestry bureau.

It will be the first time for Gansu to use DNA recognition technology on wild giant pandas on a large scale, said Ouyang.

Based on the census, scientists will further construct the sex ratio of pandas living in the wild and set up a genetic diversity information database.

In addition to using the DNA recognition technology, researchers will adopt other modern technologies to evaluate the habitats of wild pandas.

The main habitat of wild pandas in Gansu is also the hard-hit quake zone of the Wenchuan earthquake that rocked southwest China in 2008.

Later, a major task for the census will be to trace the population dynamics of wild pandas and its characteristics, said Ouyang.

This is the fourth nationwide giant panda census since the program was launched in the 1970s.

The previous census, which took place about 10 years ago, counted 1,596 wild pandas in China. At that time, 117 lived in Gansu and a majority of the rest lived in neighboring Sichuan Province.

(Xinhua News Agency May 21, 2012)

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