September 27, 2005

China to use satellite to peep on panda sex

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese scientists will use satellite
technology to peep on the sexual antics of China's highly
endangered giant pandas, Xinhua news agency said.

The $660,000 joint project between two Chinese and
U.S.-based zoological institutes would use global positioning
(GPS) to keep an eye on giant pandas and their mating behavior
deep in the wilds of a nature reserve in central Shaanxi

"Tracking them with advanced technology and observing their
sex activities might help us find ways to avoid their
extinction," Wei Fuwen, from the China Academy of Sciences'
Institute of Zoology, was quoted as saying.

"Giant pandas are inaccessible for long periods of time and
traditional observation cannot unravel the ecological mystery
of the animals."

Pandas in the wild are rebounding from the brink of
extinction, but they are not yet out of the woods, in large
part because of great difficulties in producing cubs.

Nearly 80 percent of female pandas were unable to get
pregnant and 90 percent of males were sterile, Xinhua said
without elaborating.

Only around 1,600 of the animals are alive in the wild,
mostly in the high, fog-shrouded mountains of China's southwest
Sichuan province.

More than 150 live in captivity.