1 Tahrcountry Musings: Giant Panda Update - China Celebrates 140th Anniversary of the Discovery of Giant Panda

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Giant Panda Update - China Celebrates 140th Anniversary of the Discovery of Giant Panda

It was Pere Jean Pierre Armand David, a French Catholic missionary, who introduced Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca )to the western world 140 years back. He took the first photograph of the animal in 1869 in Sichuan.

To commemorate the event twenty hikers from various provinces of China have started climbing the mountain trails covering 350-km followed by Pere David. They are expected to reach the Ya’an Bifengxia Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre on Aug 25th.

China plans to make the event an awareness creation venture and hopes to attract more people to join the protection programme of the endangered giant pandas.
It is estimated that about 1,590 pandas live in the wild in China in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. The first giant panda protection zone was established in the 1950s.China currently has 27 giant panda protection zones. Pandas once used to roam the mountains in central and south China, and in Myanmar and Vietnam. Now they live precariously in limited pockets in China. China has artificially-bred giant pandas in an effort to give a boost to its protection.

May 12th earthquake last year had devastated the panda protection centre in Wolong Nature Reserve. This was subsequently moved to Bifengxia, about 130 km northwest of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. A new breeding center is coming up at Wolong to replace the quake-damaged centre.

Pandas are solitary animals. They come together only during the mating season. Pandas are usually vegetarian, with bamboo forming 99% of their diet. Occasionally they consume meat. They reach sexual maturity between ages 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 years and mate during March, April, and May. A single cub is born five months after the mating. The new baby is born in a nest constructed of bamboo. The cubs are weaned after nine months, but often stay with their mothers for about two years. Wild pandas are estimated to have longevity of 15 to 25 years. Captive pandas have been known to live over 30 years.

Chinese scientists were recently successful in sequencing of the giant panda genome. Giant panda genome sequence will enable more detailed studies of giant panda populations in the wild

Environmentalists round the world are happy about the enthusiasm shown by China for the protection the iconic Giant Panda. Tahrcountry joins them in wishing the Chinese Godspeed on this 140th Anniversary.

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