Male giant pandas make a "Baa" sound, like sheep, when courting, just one of 13 panda vocalizations scientists in China say they have decoded through five years of observations of the endangered animals, according to the news agency Xinhua.
Females, meanwhile, will reply to the males, if interested, with a birdlike "chirp" sound.
Also deciphered by the scientists from the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center were three distinct vocalizations uttered by baby pandas: "wah wah" means unhappy; "gee gee" tells mom they're hungry; and "cuckoo" means all is well.
Researchers joked that sometimes they had to wonder if they were listening to sheep, birds, and dogs instead of pandas. They say the more they can learn about what the animals might be trying to say, the better they can assist the creatures.
If a mother "bleats," for example, it may indicate to handlers she is concerned about her baby, and if she makes a "barking" sound, the message may be along the lines of: Don't come too close, I'm angry.
Giant pandas are listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's "Red List" of threatened species. The scientists say they will continue working to decode the language of pandas, in hopes that closer discernment of their needs will improve the chances of successfully breeding a species with already low reproductive rates.
via Xinhua, ECNS