China's endangered giant panda is expanding habitat in bamboo forests stretching across two western provinces, recent discovery of its dung indicates.
Forestry researchers have identified panda's droppings in areas beyond its known habitat, in Baishuijiang Nature Reserve, a 220,000-hectare area bordering the northwestern Gansu Province and the southwestern Sichuan Province.
"This indicates an expansion of the giant panda's habitat -- and probably of its population, too," says Huang Huali, vice director of the Baishuijiang Nature Reserve Administration.
The latest national census on giant pandas, which lasted from 1999 to 2001, counted 103 pandas in Baishuijiang, the largest of China's 55 giant panda reserves.
Huang says the reserve has proven an ideal home for the cuddly bears with its good ecosystems and rich resources of arrow bamboo -- giant panda's favorite food.
To ensure ample food supply for the pandas, forestry experts have identified more than 20 bamboo-eating insects and curbed the plague of insect pests since 2002, said Huang.
"Our bamboo forests have been effectively restored after the massive flowering and die-off in the 1980s," he said.
Flowering bamboos in the mid 1980s triggered a severe food shortage for the critically-endangered giant pandas and nearly the whole nation made donations to help save the bears.
Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered species. Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show around 1,590 panda live in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Sichuan. More than 210 pandas are kept in captivity.
Links: Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries -- Wolong, Mt. Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains
(Xinhua News Agency July 28, 2007)