Trackers Count on Droppings in China’s Panda Census

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China Daily / Reuters

Some countries count people in their census. China counts pandas, too.

And the best way to count the number of pandas includes collecting droppings for DNA analysis. But that’s all just part of the process when conducting a panda census.

China sits poised to start a nationwide panda census in July—a practice it undertakes once every decade—and hopes recent efforts to bolster the wild panda population have proven successful.

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The last panda count, now a decade old, resulted in 1,596 wild Chinese pandas, with 1,206 of those living in the Sichuan province.

This time around about 70 trackers from the country’s forestry administration are being trained at the Wanglang National Reserve in Sichuan. From there, they will head into the wild and collect panda dropping for DNA analysis, a key component of allowing zoologists to track pandas and make an educated guess at the number of wild pandas.

Zoologists also hope to learn more about the panda lifestyle in the wild, including living conditions, ages and habitat preferences.

As China’s human population swells to 1.34 billion, the pandas have dwindled with a loss of habitat and increased poaching. And with females normally having a cub only once every two or three years, boosting the population takes time. For the trackers’ sake, let’s hope the pandas’ pooping cycle is a bit more frequent.

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