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Much of China's Wild Panda Population Forced to Migrate for Food

Scientists say endangered giant pandas living in the wilds of southwestern China are being forced to move because of food shortages, as thousands of hectares of their staple bamboo wither and die.

Scientist Yang Xuyu told a conference on panda survival that 350,000 hectares of arrow bamboo in Sichuan province are going through a once in 60-year cycle of flowering and dying before regenerating. Pandas will not touch bamboo once it begins to flower.

China's Xinhua news agency says no wild pandas have yet been found dead of starvation. But hundreds of the animals starved to death in China during a 1984-1987 bamboo flowering and dying cycle.

Xinhua says China's forestry bureau is carrying out a panda rescue drive. It is also working with the World Wildlife Fund to restore panda migration paths threatened by Chinese farming and industrial development.

About 1,200 pandas - a full 80 percent of the Chinese panda population - live in several mountainous areas of Sichuan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.