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November 11, 2009

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Brown-and-white panda spotted

THE world's fifth reported brown-and-white giant panda has been spotted in Foping Nature Reserve, northwestern China's Shaanxi Province, according to local officials.

The panda cub was spotted at 1pm on November 1 by Liang Qihui, a senior engineer of the Foping Nature Reserve Administration, which comes under the State Forestry Administration.

The cub, less than two months old, was estimated to weigh 2 kilograms and believed to be only the fifth brown-and-white giant panda ever found, Liang said.

"Its eyes haven't opened yet, but it could sense me when I came near it," said Liang, who took a picture of the cub.

"Its mother was a black-and-white giant panda," Liang said. "Now they are living uninterrupted in the reserve."

Many researchers believe that the brown-and-white pandas are a return to the form typical of their ancestors.

But some argue that the brown-and-white pandas are a variation from their usual group while a few others think that they are a new sub-species of panda resulting from the environmental changes of the Qinling Mountains.

The first three recorded brown-and-white pandas were found in Foping Nature Reserve in 1985, 1990 and 1991. The fourth was spotted in 1992 in Changqing Nature Reserve, Shaanxi.

China has more than 1,750 giant pandas, with 180 in captivity. Foping Nature Reserve, founded in 1978 with an area of 35,000 hectares, has about 70 pandas.

The giant panda, an endangered species native to China, feeds mainly on bamboo.


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