June 23, 2006

China gives extra-picky pandas their space

BEIJING - China is giving an unusually endangered species of panda extra space, privacy and protection to help the animals reproduce, state media said on Friday.

The 300 pandas of a rare subspecies who call northwest China's central Shaanxi province home will soon be protected by five new reserves in the fog-shrouded Qinling mountains, the China Daily said.

"This will mean better protection for the animals and help enlarge their population," Sun Chengqian, of the Shaanxi Provincial Forestry Department, told the newspaper.

The reserves would cover about 80 percent of the pandas' habitat once they are expanded from 181,100 to 500,000 hectares, the paper said.

The province also intends to improve monitoring of the pandas by the end of 2010.

This is not the only good news panda lovers have received this month -- results from a recent study show that there may be 2,500 to 3,000 giant pandas in the wild, almost double previous estimates.

Most live in the mountains of southwest Sichuan province.