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Starvation, excessive hunting and habitat loss are the traditional enemies of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Now these rare creatures have another foe: a worm that can infect their brains.
Chinese and American researchers have examined the medical records of 789 adult pandas that died in the wild between 1971 and 2005. These records show changing threats to the panda population:
The roundworm infections were confirmed when the researchers found an infection in the livers, lungs, hearts and brains of the animals that died. The parasite is spread when pandas walk through droppings with roundworm eggs and when they lick their paws after touching infected materials. The researchers believe that the increased number of infections is caused by a shrinking habitat that forces more pandas to live in a smaller area.
There are only about 1,600 wild giant pandas left on Earth. It is essential to stop any threat to these animals before it is too late and they disappear forever.
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