Killing the mood: Pandas’ love lives ruined by noisy humans (VIDEO)

© Francois Lenoir
Scientists at San Diego Zoo, California have discovered that giant pandas have ultrasonic hearing and that noisy humans near their natural habitat are affecting the bears’ chances of successful reproduction.

Detecting and interpreting the vocalizations of potential mates is key for pandas to produce offspring, but it appears noise from people and machinery in close proximity to their natural habitat is killing the chances of romance for the endangered species.

Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and the latest study shows how humans are affecting attempts at conservation in the wild too - beyond the physical destruction of their ecologies.

The study says that “the large-scale transformation of the acoustic landscape by human activities may have significant consequences for wildlife... as noise can readily permeate regulatory boundaries and can be detected in even the most remote protected areas.”

“Given the rapidly increasing footprint of noise-generating human activities, estimating impacts, predicting consequences, and developing targeted mitigation strategies may be essential to species and habitat conservation,” it adds.

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“An understanding of a species' hearing provides a foundation for developing estimates of noise disturbance,” Megan Owen, a director of giant panda conservation at San Diego Zoo Global, said in a statement.

Owen revealed the pandas’ “ability to discriminate between fine-scale differences in vocalizations is important for successful reproduction”.

One remarkable aspect to the study saw scientists actually teach the bears to answer when they heard specific noises.

“Researchers at the San Diego Zoo worked with giant pandas to teach them to respond, if they could hear sounds at a particular pitch and loudness, thus communicating their ability to hear across the acoustic spectrum," Owen said.

Director of applied animal ecology at San Diego Zoo Global, Ron Swaisgood, believes this initiative could play a major role in the conservation of the species.

"Through this study, the pandas have made a significant contribution to our understanding of what may be affecting panda reproduction in habitats in China.”