Scientists Decode Giant Panda Language

Authors: Go Chengdu


Can you imagine giant pandas baa like sheep to say “I love you” and warble a cheerful “I do” when wooed by a suitor, and bark like a dog when they are furious?
Researchers from China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda have decoded 13 different kinds of giant panda vocalizations in a surprising new insight into the private life of the reclusive creatures.
The research center has been working on a panda linguistics project since 2010. Scientists first made recordings of pandas at the center, vocalizations between cubs and adults in various situations, such as when they were eating, mating, nursing, fighting and so on, said Zhang Hemin, head of the center. Then they collected a large amount of data on pandas' voices and activities, and analyzed the voiceprints. "We managed to decode some panda language and the results are quite interesting," Zhang said.
Panda cubs can barely vocalize at all except to say things like "Gee-Gee" (I'm hungry!), "Wow-Wow" (Not happy!) or "Coo-Coo" (Nice!).
"Adult giant pandas usually are solitary, so the only language teacher they have is their own mother," the researcher said. When they grow a little, cubs learn how to express themselves by roaring, barking, shouting, squeaking, bleating and chirping.
"If a panda mother keeps tweeting like a bird, she may be anxious about her babies. She barks loudly when a stranger comes near," Zhang said. The barking can be interpreted as "getting out of my place", according to the researcher. Pandas can be as gentle as a lamb when they are "in love". Male pandas baa all the time when they are wooing their lovers. The females respond with constant tweeting if they feel the same.
The center plans to continue the study and is looking forward to the creation of a panda translator that could use high-tech voice recognition technology. "If we can understand their language, it will help us protect the animal, especially in the wild," Zhang said.

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