XI'AN -- Seven panda "villages" of 10 to 20 pandas each have been found in
northwest China's Qinling mountains, said experts.
panda recluses live in stone cave communities in the mountain," said Yong Yange,
director of the research institute of Foping National Nature Reserve at the foot
of the Qinling mountains in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
The panda breeding caves look just like a village. The black and white
villagers can tell to which community a panda belongs by smelling their
excrement, Yong said.
Social life occurs within the community and the pandas seldom seek contact
with other villages except when they are looking for food, Yong said.
The villagers keep their sons but shoo away their daughters.
When female pandas are two years old, they are driven from home to another
village while sons grow up with mother and wait for "ladies" to arrive from
another place, according to Yong.
"Marrying daughters to a remote area avoids inbreeding," Yong said. Young
pandas compete -- lazily enough -- to decide which one will have a "beauty" from
According to Yong, the mothers enjoy two types of cave apartment -- one
bedroom with hall or just one big living room.
All the caves are leeward and generally face due south or southeast.
A mother cannot retain her room forever but must share with other villagers
from the same community at different periods, Yong said.
Further investigation is being carried out on the girl outcasts and on how
the villages develop new territories when there are too many ladies, according
Yong's 16-member team has been researching 99 panda caves in the Reserve
Future investigations will mainly focus on the structure of the stone caves.
"If we can build new apartments for pandas like these caves, we will help
panda mothers breed and increase the number of pandas in the wild," Yong said.
The Qinling Mountain giant pandas are a sub-species of giant pandas on the
verge of extinction, said Yong.
There are approximately 300 Qinling Mountain pandas and about 1,590 in the
wild, mainly in the high mountains of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. There are 160
pandas living in captivity around the world.