BEIJING (Reuters) - China will use analysis of panda droppings as it embarks upon a once-in-a-decade census of the endangered animal, state media said Monday.
Authorities are training some 70 trackers in southwestern China who will begin their work this week and end the survey by late July, Xinhua news agency said.
"The trackers will collect panda droppings for DNA analysis, which will allow zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the number of pandas living in the wild," it quoted wildlife official Chen Youping as saying.
The census will count not only how many wild pandas there are, but also their living conditions, how old they are and the state of their habitat, Xinhua added.
The last census 10 years ago counted 1,596 wild pandas in China, most of them in Sichuan province, it said.
A 2004 census by the Worldwide Fund for Nature revealed there were 1,600 pandas in the wild.
Considered a national treasure, the panda is seen as having come back from the brink of extinction while remaining under threat from logging, agriculture and China's increasing human population.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa