Giant panda news update

This video is called Life of Giant Pandas – Full Documentary.

From Associated Press today:

China’s latest survey finds increase in wild giant pandas

BEIJING — Wild giant pandas in China are doing well.

The latest census by China’s State Forestry Administration shows the panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey ending in 2003.

Nearly three quarters of the pandas live in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The remaining pandas have been found in the neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

“The rise in the population of wild giant pandas is a victory for conservation and definitely one to celebrate,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation for World Wildlife Fund.

Hemley credited efforts by the Chinese government for the increase. The survey shows 1,246 wild giant pandas live within nature reserves. There are 67 panda reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last survey.

“The survey result demonstrates the effectiveness of nature reserves in boosting wild giant panda numbers,” said Xiaohai Liu, executive program director for WWF-China.

But the survey also points to economic development as a main threat to the rare animal. It says 319 hydropower stations and 1,339 kilometers (832 miles) of roads have been built in the giant panda’s habitat.

WWF said it is the first time that large-scale infrastructure projects such as mining and railroads get referenced in the survey. Traditional threats such as poaching are on the decline, WWF noted.

China began surveying its giant pandas in the 1970s. The latest census began in 2011 and took three years to complete.

The number of giant pandas in captivity grew by 211, more than double the previous survey figure, according to the census released Saturday.

Spanish fossil giant panda relative discovered

Bear evolution

From ScienceDaily:

A ‘Cousin’ of the Giant Panda Lived in What Is Now Zaragoza, Spain

(May 9, 2012) — A team of Spanish scientists have found a new ursid fossil species in the area of Nombrevilla in Zaragoza, Spain. Agriarctos beatrix was a small plantigrade omnivore and was genetically related to giant pandas, according to the authors of the study.

The fossil remains of a new ursid species, Agriarctos beatrix, have been discovered in the Nombrevilla 2 site in the province of Zaragoza, Spain. Researchers from Spain’s National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) and the University of Valencia suggested that this plantigrade lived during the Myocene

sic; Miocene

period some 11 million years ago.

“This bear species was small, even smaller than the Sun bear — currently the smallest bear species. It would not have weighed more than 60 kilos,” as explained by Juan Abella, researcher at the Department of Paleobiology of the MNCN-CSIC and lead author of the study, published in the journal Estudios Geológicos.

Although it is difficult to determine its physical appearance given that only pieces of dental fossils have been found, scientists believe that it would have had dark fur with white spots mainly on the chest, around the eyes and possibly close to the tail.

“This fur pattern is considered primitive for bears, such as that of the giant panda whose white spots are so big that it actually seems to be white with black spots,” states Abella.

Agriarctos beatrix, from the Ursidae family and related to giant pandas, would have lived in the forest and could have been more sessile that those bears that tend to hunt more, such as the brown or polar bears. According to researchers, the extinct bear would have escaped from other larger carnivores by climbing up trees.

The expert highlights that “its diet would have been similar to that of the sun bear or the spectacled bear that only eat vegetables and fruit and sometimes vertebrates, insects, honey and dead animals.”

The lone bear

“We know that it was a different species to those documented up until now because of its morphological differences and the size of its teeth,” confirms the scientist. “We have compared it with species of the same kind (Agriarctos) and similar kinds from the same period (Ursavus and Indarctos).”

The reasons for its extinction have yet to be determined but “the most probable cause is likely to be the opening up of the forests giving way to more open, drier spaces and the appearance of similar yet larger and more competitive species,” says Abella.

The findings now date the appearance of this group related to giant pandas some two millions years later, from 9 million years ago to 11 million years ago. They could have originated in the north-east basins of the Iberian Peninsula.

See also here.

Kung fu pandas video

This is a video from a panda park in China; where giant panda twins have a “kung fu” fight for fun.

Eats, shoots and leaves, an essay on giant pandas: here.

Giant Panda‘s Tricky Sex Lives Revealed. Females are only “in the mood” for about a day — three at the most — each year: here.

Panda fossils found in Hainan island

This video says about itself:

Giant pandas at play in the rescue centre of WoLong China. October 2007

Reuters reports:

Chinese archaeologists have found fossils that prove pandas once roamed what is now the southern Chinese island of Hainan, state media said on Wednesday.

The 400,000-year-old fossils, mostly of teeth, showed the tropical island was once connected to the Chinese mainland, the Xinhua news agency cited Huang Wanbo, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying.

The fossils were found last year in a quarry, Huang said.

The giant panda is one of the world’s most endangered species and is found only in China.

Red pandas: here.