Advertisement

Study proves pandas aren't loners

"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," study co-author Jindong Zhang said.

By
Brooks Hays
A giant panda treks through the snow. Photo courtesy Michigan State University
A giant panda treks through the snow. Photo courtesy Michigan State University

WENCHUAN COUNTY, China, March 28 (UPI) -- More than two years of electronic stalking has revealed a variety of details about the day-to-day life of wild pandas. And one of those details undermines the characterization of pandas as loners.

Contrary to popular belief, pandas make friends. And as 24 months worth of GPS tracking data revealed, the giant black and white bears appear to socialize in the wild -- or at least tolerate each other's company.

Advertisement

"Pandas seem to be quite happy to have other pandas nearby," Stuart Pimm, a biologist at Duke University, told New Scientist. "They're not charging around defending mutually exclusive territories."

To better understand wild panda behavior, researchers from Michigan State attached GPS collars to five giant pandas in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province -- three adult females, Pan Pan, Mei Mei and Zhong Zhong, as well as two young bears, female Long Long and male Chuan Chuan.

The tracking collars allowed scientists to plot the pandas' movements over a two-year span. Scientists found that three of the pandas gathered and remained in the same areas for several weeks in the autumn, outside of mating season.

Advertisement

"Sometimes the pandas were within 10 or 20 metres of each other, which suggests the pandas were in direct interaction," explained co-author Vanessa Hull, a researcher at Michigan State University.

"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," study co-author Jindong Zhang said in a press release.

The data also showed that the pandas rotated between 30 favorite bamboo spots.

"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.

The research was published this week in the Journal of Mammalogy.

Latest Headlines