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China's giant panda protection goes digital
Updated: 2005-04-03 15:45

The Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province has been fully covered by a regional telecom network based on Intel's Centrino mobile technology, said Wu Haishan, PR manager of Intel's Chengdu business office.

China will implant high-tech identification tags into all its captive pandas in an effort to better monitor the population and prevent inbreeding, the Xinhua news agency says. [Reuters]

Wu said the regional telcom network covers the administrative office building of Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, a giant panda museum, and China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas (CCRCGP), the open-air habitat for the endangered species.

With the broadband network, researchers are able to process real-time data on the pandas, including photos and video signals, around the clock at any given corner of the nature reserve, or observe giant panda cubs on a daily basis without having to step out of their offices, according to Wu.

Before this regional telecom network was launched in Wolong, communication between the CCRCGP and the outside world was limited to conventional means of access. Researchers had to walk back to their offices to process data or drive several kilometers to send disks to outside researchers.

"Digital technology has changed communication between Wolong and the rest of the world and will help promote information sharing on giant panda protection," said Zhang Weimin, director of the Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve.

"This will not only help increase the number of giant pandas, but also help us manage the living environment of giant pandas in a more efficient manner," he said.

Brian M. Krzanich, vice president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group and general manager of Assembly/Test for Intel Corporation, said he felt proud Intel technological progress could be useful in protection of the giant pandas.

"I talked on phone with my daughter in the States and promised her to bring her to Sichuan to see giant pandas at Wolong next time," said Mr. Krzanich.

The giant panda is one of the world's most rare and endangered species, with an estimated some 1,000 living in the mountainous regions of Sichuan in southwest China, and northwestern Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

Pandas are among the world's most endangered wildlife species. Statistics from the State Forestry Administration released last June show the number of pandas in the wild in China has risen by more than 40 percent from 1,110 in the 1980s to 1,590 nowadays, while a total of 161 are in captive breeding programs worldwide.

Despite the increase, the animal's existence is menaced by problems including loss of habitat and a low rate of reproduction. China has 33 nature reserves with a combined area of 1.6 million hectares.

Wolong, founded in 1963, is the largest. It has an area of 200, 000 hectares and owns 76 giant pandas. With 20 giant pandas on lease, including 13 leased overseas, there are now only 30 giant pandas in captivity at the Wolong center.

The remaining 26 have been moved to the Bifeng Gorge Base in Ya'an, also in Sichuan Province, to make way for construction of new habitats.

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