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Is Shennongjia a Suitable Site for Reintroducing Giant Panda: An Appraisal on Food Supply

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The giant panda was found on Mount Shennongjia in Central China for thousands of years but vanished in the late 19th century. The possibility for reintroducing the giant panda in Shennongjia is discussed in terms of food availability, carrying capacity, and predicted bamboo flowering. Three species (Fargesia spathacea, F. murielae, and Yushania confusa) are considered the preferred forage bamboos, which could feed 193–223 giant pandas. However, in 1879–1888 these three species synchronously flowered and died back. In the past, such bamboo flowering usually forced the panda to migrate to a new habitat where forage bamboos were available. But since the 19th century, Shennongjia has become separated from other panda habitats by densely populated agricultural zones. Multi-species flowering of the forage bamboo and isolating of the habitat might caused the extinct of the giant panda in Shennongjia. If the flowering cycle of the bamboo is genetically fixed, the next synchronous flowering of two staple food species (F. spathacea and F. murielae) may occur in 2436–2439. It means that the food supply is dependable in Shennongjia for reintroducing the giant panda before 2436.

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