The giant panda is on a bit of a roll

PANDAS are famously shy. Rather than counting them directly, surveyors must infer their presence from dung and semi-chewed bamboo stalks scattered on the forest floor. But they are also hard to find because there are not many left. A mix of hunting and habitat destruction has ravaged the species. By the late 1970s, their numbers had fallen to around 1,000 individuals.

Such precarity is why zoos spend so much effort trying to persuade captive pandas to reproduce. But it is a tricky task. On September 11th Edinburgh Zoo announced that Tian Tian, its resident panda, had failed to carry a pregnancy to term, the fifth time that attempts to produce a cub have failed. In America, keepers at the Smithsonian National Zoo, in Washington, DC, are waiting anxiously, hoping that a bear called Mei Xiang will have better luck.

Yet things are looking up for this most charismatic of megafauna. China‚Äôs most recent survey, completed in 2014,…Continue reading

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