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GPS to keep track of pandas in the wild

Zoological officials in China plan to use GPS to monitor the Panda’s movements. Under a joint project, the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and the Zoological Society of San Diego in the United States will spend three years trying to learn more about this highly endangered animal species. The whole point is conservation. Pandas, once caught, will be fitted with collars to which miniature radio transmitters are attached that pinpoint the animals’ location–via GPS. The GPS system will allow the officials to learn about the reclusive lifestyle of pandas. Institute officials said the project will focus on the Fuping Nature Reserve in Shaanxi province, in western China, where about 70 wild pandas are said to live. From April 2006, researchers will spend three years studying pandas. After confirming the extent of the pandas’ habitats with GPS data, researchers will visit the areas and observe them on the ground. Only an estimated 1,590 wild pandas exist. They live in the provinces of Shaanxi, Sichuan and Gansu, according to officials of the forestry bureau based in Beijing. Little is known about how wild pandas live and mate because they roam mostly fog-shrouded mountain areas at high altitude.