Giant pandas in the wild are facing possible food shortages as the bamboo they like flowers and dies without being replaced, naturalists have said.
The plants are a staple of the pandas' diet and flower as part of a natural cycle to produce seedlings for the next batch of bamboo.
The species the bears prefer flowers every 30-80 years before dying off.
Yang Xuyu, deputy head of the wild animal preservation station of the forestry bureau in Sichuan Province, issued the warning on Sunday at the annual meeting of the China Giant Panda Breeding Technical Committee held in the provincial capital of Chengdu.
He said there have been 24,000 hectares of bamboo flowering spotted in the province, where 1,206 pandas live in 40 nature reserves.
The reserves have a total area of 1.77 million hectares, accounting for 77 percent of the total panda habitat.
Bamboo blossoms have been spotted in 14 counties in Sichuan since 2005. Nine varieties of bamboo have been seen flowering, which in turn account for 30 percent of the types eaten by the panda, Yang said.
"So far, no wild panda has been found starved to death.
"However, as the area of bamboo flowering continues to spread, we will need to keep a very close watch on their food supply," he said.
In 1984 and 1987, mountainous regions witnessed extensive blossoming of the arrow bamboo - the pandas' favorite variety - where the plants flowered, seeded and died.
Yang said that in the past, pandas adapted to the natural recurrence of bamboo die-offs by relocating.
Source: China Daily/Xinhua