The Panda that eats MEAT! Panda caught on infra-red camera having midnight feast of dead antelope

By Lucy Buckland

Forget the bamboo! This giant panda gets his teeth around a dead antelope in the forest in Ping Wu, in Sichuan province

He looks like he has been caught out helping himself to a forbidden snack.

And perhaps this panda realises he has given away a secret kept under wraps for years as he is captured red-handed tucking into a dead antelope.

It was previously thought the creatures were strictly herbivores but as this infra-red camera shot taken in Ping Wu, in southwest China's Sichuan province shows, pandas sometimes do prefer a meaty snack.

According to the World Wildlife Fund China pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore and will eat meat if available, but adapted a long time ago to a vegetarian diet.

Because of this carnivorous digestive system the panda derives little energy and protein from consumption of bamboo so must eat as much as 14kg a day to stay healthy.

It has taken millions of years living in bamboo forests for the panda to improve its ability to digest cellulose from bamboo.

It is unlikely the panda pictured killed the antelope in the picture and may have fortuitously stumbled across the animal in the forest.

China is set to launch its once-a-decade panda census as it tries to determine how many of the endangered animals live in the wild amid efforts to boost numbers.

That's more like it! Yang Guang the panda at Edinburgh Zoo gets his mouth around the more traditional panda snack, bamboo

And as the population depletes government officials confirmed it will begin sending pandas bred in captivity into a controlled wilderness area in southwestern Sichuan province next month, the most ambitious attempt to rebuild the country's depleted population of giant pandas in a natural habitat.

The first six pandas selected from 108 raised by the Chengdu Giant Panda
Rehabilitation Project, the world's largest captive bred population of giant pandas, will be released to a protected natural area covering more than 2,000 acres.

'Rather than keeping them in their enclosures, we will spend the next 50 years helping them return to their natural habitat, which is the ultimate goal of the Chengdu Panda Base,' Zhang Zhihe, director of the base, said.

The pandas, bred through artificial insemination, will be released in batches and monitored as they acclimatise. Those who perform well in an initial area will be released into the primary controlled wilderness area.

The first six pandas range in age from two to four and were chosen on the basis of gender ratio and health.

In 2004, a census by the Worldwide Fund for Nature counted 1,600 pandas in the wild, most in Sichuan province.

Pandas are difficult to breed because females ovulate only once a year and can only become pregnant during a two or three-day period.



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