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Endangered Pandas May Be Less Picky About Their Habitat Than We Thought

First Posted: Dec 04, 2014 09:30 AM EST
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There's some good news when it comes to pandas. Far from being delicate and picky, these mammals may just be more flexible than we previously thought.

For years, researchers believed that pandas were inflexible about their habitat.  This fact, in particular, has helped guide policy in China for years. Yet new research seems to show that this endangered animal is far more resilient than previously believed.

One of the researchers, Vanessa Hull, spent three years stalking giant pandas in China's Wolong Nature Reserve. She also examined literature on panda habitat selection; surprisingly, she discovered inconsistencies and lack of consensus on crucial matters.

In the past, researchers believed that pandas demanded a forest with a fairy gentle slope at a certain elevation in original, old forest, an abundance of bamboo and plenty of distance from people. Yet now, Hull believes these recommendations are due to the fact that pandas are difficult to study rather than the fact that they're picky.

"Pandas are difficult to observe and follow in the wild, we're always 10 steps behind them," said Hull in a news release. "We don't know why' they're there-or where they were before and after. There's a lot of guesswork."

In this case, the researchers drew up analysis of all of the research projects concerning pandas and examined separate studies that focused on where pandas live. In the end, they found that pandas may not be so picky, after all. More specifically, they discovered that pandas are willing to live in secondary forests and don't seem as selective about slop. They're also willing to climb depending on which of the many varieties of bamboo is growing, or what type of forest it was in.

"It's exciting to see the flexibility pandas have, or at least see that pandas are choosing areas I didn't think could support them," said Hull. "It gives you hope. They've survived throughout many challenges over so many millions of years, it would be sad to think humans came along and threw it all away. This also suggests we should stay on board and try to make things better for them."

The findings are published in the journal Ursus.

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