National Geographic Today
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This spring, panda researchers in China are closely watching Da Shuang, a five-year-old female panda.
If Da Shuang is ready to mate, she'll show signs like scent-marking, restlessness and characteristic bleating sounds.
Researchers also monitor Da Shuang's urine for signs that she is ovulating. Females can conceive just once a year, for only three days.
Da Shuang lives at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a zoological research center outside Chengdu, in the central Chinese province of Sichuan.
The Chengdu Base has 32 resident pandasone of the highest concentrations of pandas anywhere. Pandas, perhaps the world's most coveted animals, are also among the most endangered.
"In the past, Chinese people did not pay much attention to animals or the environment," says Hu Jin Chu, a zoologist at the Chengdu Base who is known as "the father of panda research."
"But now with all the economic growth the society is learning a lot about nature, especially the kids who like pandas very much because they are from China."
The Chengdu Base, in addition to its scientific mission, is open to the public and has become one of China's premier tourist attractions.
Only about 1,000 pandas remain in the wild. Panda range once extended from eastern and southern China into North Vietnam and Myanmar.
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