A team of scientists from the Michigan State University used GPS collars on the adorable furry creatures living inside the bamboo forests of china to know more about their social life. The findings of their study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Mammalogy, point out that the black and white animals are not always solitary creatures as was earlier believed. They have rich and complex social lives and are a lot more flirtatious than was imagined.
Vanessa Hull, co-author of the study and a research associate at MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, together with her colleagues placed GPS collars on five giant pandas at the Wolong Nature Reserve in China after naming them Pan Pan, Mei Mei and Zhong Zhong (three adult females), Long Long (a young female), and Chuan Chuan (a male). They then released them back into the reserve and tracked them from 2010 to 2012.
“This was a great opportunity to get a peek into the panda’s secretive society that has been closed off to us in the past,” said Jindong Zhang, also a co-author.
With the GPS devices, the team studying them could see where they go and map their activities. This was a clear departure from rules as imposed by the Chinese wildlife authorities. The government of the country which is extremely protective about its endangered pandas had banned GPS collars on them more than a decade ago.
This is, therefore, one of the first instances of technology being used to provided more detail on the pandas’ movements and how they interact with one another.
“Pandas are such an elusive species and it’s very hard to observe them in wild, so we haven’t had a good picture of where they are from one day to the next,” said Hull.
“Usually renowned for being loners, three were found to be in the same part of the forest at the same time – for several weeks in the fall and outside the usual spring mating season. We can see it clearly wasn’t just a fluke. We could see they were in the same locations, which we never would have expected for that length of time and at that time of year,” she said in a press release.
The team also observed that the creatures once considered to be reclusive spend a lot of time munching bamboo in up to 30 favorite areas.
“They pretty much sit down and eat their way out of an area, but then need to move on to the next place,” Hull explained.
A better understanding of their behavior and their preferred places for hanging out could prove handy at a time when they figure on the list of endangered animals, inspite of their number having increased by 17% from 1,596 to 1,864 in the recent years.