Chinese scientists who studied the language of giant pandas at a conservation center in the Sichuan province were able to decipher 13 different vocalizations. Researchers found that male giant pandas make 'baa' sounds like a sheep when wooing mate. The female giant pandas then respond by making bird-like sounds (chirping) when they're interested.
Baby pandas (cubs) make 'wow-wow' sounds when they're sad. When they're hungry, the make 'gee-gee' sounds to prompt their mothers into action. Cubs also say 'coo-coo' which translate to 'nice' in human language.
The research team recorded the giant pandas' vocalizations in various scenarios which included nursing the cubs, fighting and eating to analyze the voiceprints.
"Trust me - our researchers were so confused when we began the project, they wondered if they were studying a panda, a bird, a dog, or a sheep," said China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda head Zhang Hemin, who lead the study. The research team has been analyzing panda linguistics since 2010.
Panda cubs learn to bark, shout, chirp, and squeak to express what they want. The researchers found that adult giant pandas are typically unsocial animals, making their mothers the only language teacher they ever had. When a mother panda won't stop making bird-like sounds (chirping), she could be worried about her cubs. Like a dog, she barks when a stranger goes near her babies. In general, barking can be translated as "get out of my place."
Understanding how giant pandas communicate can be valuable in their conservation, especially in their natural habitat in the wild. Findings coupled with conservation efforts will benefit future generations. Looking forward, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda is looking into the creation of a "panda translator" using a voice-recognition software.
The 2014 census of the World Wildlife Fund said there are 1,864 giant pandas living in the wild, majority of which are found in Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces in China. Towards the end of 2013, there were 375 giant pandas living in conservation centers or zoos around the world. Two hundred captive pandas are living at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
Saving giant pandas from the brink of extinction have reached a tipping point. On the other side of the world, scientists gear up to clone one male and one female panda at the Roslin Embryology, a biotechnology firm at Edinburgh Science Triangle in the United Kingdom (UK). Tian Tian and Yang Guang, who live in the 82-acre Edinburgh Zoo, are last two giant pandas left in the UK. The team who successfully cloned Dolly the sheep will also be cloning the two pandas.