Scientists Claim To Have Translated Panda "Language"

Tim Evanson/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Breeding pandas is notoriously difficult. They just can’t seem to get into the mood in captivity, and even in the wild things aren't easy due to competition. In an attempt to understand their child-rearing, mating and courting, scientists in China have been studying their baby talk, dirty talk, and other aspects of their other vocal communication.

The recent study claims to have deciphered 13 different vocalizations of pandas. To get the information, scientists recorded pandas while they were fighting, courting and nursing their young, correlating noises made with their behaviors.

Much of the research focused on baby panda cubs and breeding. The scientists found that males “baa” like sheep when they are attempting to attract a mate, to which females respond with a chirp if they are interested. Baby cubs tended to make “wow-wow” sounds when they were sad and “gee-gee” sounds when they were hungry to prompt their mothers to feed them.

Most obscurely, they believe the noise “wah-wah” translates as “Mum, you’re crushing me!”

The discovery was part of a five-year study at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in southwestern Sichuan province. The center reportedly has nearly 200 pandas, which accounts for 60 percent of all the world’s captive pandas.

“Pandas in the growth process are very similar to humans, they like to be with their mother. It's during this time they also learn to speak. They slowly learn roaring, barking, wailing, screaming and other intense sounds,” Zhang Hemin, head of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, told Xinhua news agency.

Zhang added that he hopes a clearer understanding of how pandas communicate will help conservationists to protect them in the wild. Recent surveys have estimated wild panda populations have risen by 17 percent in the past decade – to around 1,864.

Main image credit: Tim Evanson/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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