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17 June 2019 Movement and activity of reintroduced giant pandas
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Abstract

Wild populations of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) have steadily increased in the past 2 decades, but the species' distribution remains highly fragmented. Since 2009, an introduction program has worked to rescue the giant panda population of Liziping National Nature Reserve in southwestern Sichuan Province, China. Using Global Positioning System and activity collar data collected between May 2011 and March 2016, we investigated the post-release behavior of the first 5 pandas introduced to Liziping, 4 of which were bred in captivity. Using a change-point analysis, we tested several models of post-release adjustment to the habitat. We found that it took 3–4 months for captive-bred individuals to exhibit movement patterns characteristic of their long-term behavior. Furthermore, we found that, for these individuals, post-adjustment behavior varied by season, with activity levels peaking between May and July, a period of high resource availability. This also corresponded with a decrease in large movement events, where individuals were less likely to travel long distances quickly during these months. Unlike wild giant pandas in more northerly reserves, the 5 pandas released in Liziping (both captive-bred and translocated) did not exhibit any seasonal migration between elevations. Finally, we found that our study individuals had 2 daily periods of activity, which was comparable to those reported in the literature for wild individuals. Our results suggest that captive-bred giant pandas are able to successfully adjust to the wild and, after a period of adjustment, settle into long-term behavior patterns.

Received: 20 December 2017; Accepted: 24 August 2018; Published: 17 June 2019
JOURNAL ARTICLE
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