Academic journal article Science and Children

Using Footprints to Identify Giant Pandas

Academic journal article Science and Children

Using Footprints to Identify Giant Pandas

Article excerpt

Footprints left by giant pandas in the wild can be used to identify the individual panda that made them and determine its sex, a new Duke University-led study shows.

An interactive software tool called the Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) correctly identified digital images of animals' footprints and their sex more than 90% of the time. This accuracy, combined with the system's ease of use in the field (a smartphone and a ruler are all you need to collect and submit images) makes it particularly well-suited for studying a species as elusive as the giant panda, says Binbin Li, who led the study

"Giant pandas live in remote and hard-to-reach areas and their population density is so low that actual sightings of pandas themselves are not common. What we do see a lot of are footprints and fecal droppings," said Li, who holds a secondary faculty appointment at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Footprints, like fingerprints, are unique to each animal. The software "reads" a panda's footprint and identifies its distinguishing features. Based on these data, the program can identify the animal's sex and pinpoint if its prints are already in the FIT dataset or new to it. …

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