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July 6, 2015

Panda in the mountains of the Wolong Nature Reserve

A panda in the mountains of the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, China. The picture was taken using a motion-detector camera trap.

More about this Image
A recent study by researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) followed five pandas wearing global positioning system tracking collars to better understand how the reclusive animals move through their habitat. The five pandas -- three female adults, a young female and a male -- were captured, collared and tracked from 2010 to 2012 in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwest China.

Among other things, the study revealed that the pandas liked each other's company at times. Pandas are known to be loners, so researchers were surprised to find that three of the pandas in the group were located in the same part of the forest at the same time during some periods. This occurred for several weeks during the fall and outside the spring mating season, suggesting that perhaps pandas are not as solitary as has been thought.

The study also found that the single male of the group wondered over a larger range than the females of the group. The researchers speculate that perhaps he was checking on the females and advertising his presences by marking trees with his scent glands.

"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 Vanessa Hull, a research associate at MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). Jindong Zhang, a co-author on the paper and postdoctoral researcher at CSIS, continues "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."

This research was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

To learn more about this research, see the MSU story A peek at the secret life of pandas. (Date of Image: 2010-2012)

Credit: Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

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