Scientists say they have decoded 'panda language'

The researchers now plan to develop a 'panda translator' using voice recognition technology

Caroline Mortimer
Saturday 07 November 2015 10:17
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Baby pandas playing at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
Baby pandas playing at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda

Scientists in China say they have deciphered the meaning of 13 different giant panda vocalisations.

During a five-year study of panda "language" at a conservation centre in the southwestern Sichuan province scientists found giant pandas communicate using specific sounds to indicate when they are hungry or unhappy, according to the state Xinhua news agency.

Researchers found that when attracting a mate, males "baa" like sheep and females respond with chirping sound if they are interested.

They also make a "wow-wow" sound when they are unhappy and baby pandas say "gee-gee" to tell their mothers they are hungry.

Pandas, like Tian Tian above, are endangered partly because of their poor fertility

Zhang Hemin, head of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, which ran the study, said: "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."

He said they recorded the animals when they were eating, fighting and nursing young to study how they communicated.

The scientists now plan to use the information to better understand how to protect the critically endangered species in the wild.

The scientists now say they want to develop a "panda translator" using voice-recognition technology, according to Xinhua.

Giant pandas are critically endangered with only 1,864 believed to still be living in the wild.

Despite a slight recovery in their population reported earlier this year, pandas are still under threat from their well documented fertility problems and the destruction of their habitat.

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