Beijing: Over 40 wild pandas, considered an endangered species and a "national treasure" of China, are believed to be living near a northwestern Chinese city, local experts have claimed.
The number was confirmed through examining the hair, excrement, bite marks and footprints of pandas, said Wu Xiaoping, director of Xi`an city`s Wild Animal Management Station.
"Bite marks, like human beings` fingerprints, are exclusive to a certain giant panda. Researchers have also conducted DNA analysis using the excrement of pandas to
confirm their number," the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.
China has carried out three nationwide censuses on pandas since the 1970s.
According to the third census, launched in the early 2000s, the number of wild pandas living near Xi`an, capital city of Shaanxi province, rose to 41 from 18 in the 1990s.
"With the improvement in the ecology of the Qinling Mountains their current number should have increased again, or over 41 but less than 50," said Jin Xuelin, director of the
Shaanxi Provincial Rare Wild Animal Rescue and Breeding Research Center.
The Qinling Mountains in the south of Xi`an are a major habitat for wild pandas in China, and the third census showed that the number of the endangered species in Qinling had risen from 237 in the 1990s to 273 in the early 2000s.
The census also showed that among the 1,596 pandas believed to exist in the wild in China, 1,206 are living in Sichuan province, which neighbours Shaanxi.