China's Giant Pandas Get Broadband

BEIJING (Christian Science Monitor) Calling all tech-savvy pandas -- China's biggest nature reserve in the foggy mountains of southwest Sichuan province is now wired for broadband.

Some might argue that the Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, China's largest, is now ready for the world's first panda internet cafe, but the great digital leap forward is aimed more at panda protection.

Researchers are able to process real-time data on the pandas, including photos and video signals, around the clock at any given corner of the nature reserve, or observe giant panda cubs on a daily basis without having to step out of their offices," Xinhua said.

"Digital technology has changed communication between Wolong and the rest of the world and will help promote information sharing on giant panda protection," said Zhang Weimin, director of the reserve.

"This will not only help increase the number of giant pandas, but also help us manage the living environment of giant pandas in a more efficient manner."

Wolong, founded in 1963, covers 200,000 hectares (772 square miles) and is home to 76 giant pandas.

The giant panda is one of the world's most endangered species, with an estimated 1,000 living in Sichuan and in northwestern Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

Statistics from the State Forestry Administration released last year show the number of pandas in the wild in China has risen by more than

40 percent from 1,110 in the 1980s to 1,590, while a total of 161 are in captive breeding programs worldwide.

"Despite the increase, the animal's existence is menaced by problems including loss of habitat and a low rate of reproduction," Xinhua said, meaning that pandas are not yet out of the woods.

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