- By Suzanne MerkelsonSuzanne Merkelson is an editorial assistant at Foreign Policy.
Chinese state media reported today that the country has started its once-a-decade panda census, the fourth tallying of the endangered species since it first began in the 1970s. 70 panda trackers are being trained during a pilot survey in the Wanglang National Reserve, in the city of Mianyang, in Sichuan province. According to Yang Xuyu, a forestry official, that particular nature reserve is believed to have the largest number of wild pandas in the country.
Before you get so jealous of these panda trackers’ jobs that you quit your own, know that much of panda tracking actually involves collecting panda droppings for DNA analysis. This allows zoologists to monitor individual pandas and then estimate the number of pandas living in the wild. According to Xinhua, the census will not only count pandas, but also determine their living conditions, age, and habitat state.
The last official census counted 1,596 wild pandas in China — 1,206 living in Sichuan, including 230 in the Wanglang reserve and nearby areas. There are another 290 pandas living in captivity worldwide.
And yes, we’ll take this excuse to post some more cute panda photos (most of these guys live at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research and Conservation Center):