Researchers at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) say they have decoded 13 vocalizations for pandas, including noises expressed during courting.
The researchers from CCRCGP, led by Zhang Hemin, the head of the center, have found that male pandas are said to baa like sheep if they are courting a mate, while females chirp if they are interested. The noises are among a range of barks, roars and squeaks that have been analysed by Chinese doctors who are desperate to boost the numbers of an animal that is one of the most endangered in the world. “Our researchers were so confused when we began the project that they wondered if they were studying a panda, a bird, a dog, or a sheep,” said Mr. Zhang. He goes on to explain, “If we can understand their language, it will help us protect the animal, especially in the wild.”
CCRCGP has been working on the panda linguistics project since 2010 when they started making recordings of pandas in the center – both cubs and adults – in various situations: eating, mating, nursing, fighting, etc. They then began analyzing the voiceprints.
Sounds expressed by panda cubs, they found, were basic and include ‘gee-gee’ (‘I’m hungry’), ‘wow-wow’ (not happy) and ‘coo-coo’ (nice). Panda mothers have a variety of calls. “If a panda mother keeps tweeting like a bird, she may be anxious about her babies. She barks loudly when a stranger comes near.”
While the findings of the research were met with skepticism by some on China’s social media websites, the researchers are confident in their work. “How is this panda’s consciously expressing their affections for each other,” one said. “This is basically just the sound of mating.”
The center aims to set up a “panda translator” that would use voice-recognition technology”, the news agency added, without providing details.
Originally reported from Xinhua News Agency.