Friday, 6 April 2012

Half of Giant Panda Habitat May Vanish in 70 Years, Scientists Say

Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer

For all their cuteness, giant pandas are in a tight spot. There are fewer than 1,600 pandas left in the wild, and a new study found that more than half of the bears' already diminished natural habitat will be unlivable in 70 years thanks to climate change.

To protect the adorable black-and-white creatures, zoologists are working furiously to understand and improve panda-breeding in captivity. Toward that end, another recent study investigated male pandas' reproductive cycle, and found that, contrary to females, males are ready and able to mate during more than six months of the year.

This is welcome news, given that female pandas have a sharply limited fertility window of only 24 to 72 hours a year.

"The more we know, the more we can understand them and the better we're able to put guidelines in place for their protection," said Copper Aitken-Palmer, head veterinarian at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., and leader of the reproduction study. "We can potentially manage them better in captivity, and we're actually looking toward reintroduction programs to put captive pandas back into the wild." 

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