Pandas form communities in NW China mountains

Updated: 2006-12-30 21:16

XI'AN -- Seven panda "villages" of 10 to 20 pandas each have been found in northwest China's Qinling mountains, said experts.

Related readings:
Captive-bred panda cubs break a record
Panda gives birth to twins in Japan
China reports year's 30th panda birth in mini-baby boom
What's in a name? Quite a lot for 100-day-old cub
China has 221 pandas bred in captivity
Symbol of friendship
Celebrity takes close encounter with pandas
Giant panda fur exchange smashed

"These 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 another place.

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 to Yong.

Yong's 16-member team has been researching 99 panda caves in the Reserve since 2004.

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.

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours