In DepthEndangered Species

Captive pandas succumb to killer virus

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Science  13 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 700-701
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6223.700

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A fatal virus is felling pandas at a breeding center in China, prompting authorities to institute strict quarantine and disease control measures. State media report that four pandas have died, the latest on 4 February. Officials are blaming canine distemper, a highly contagious virus often spread by dogs that in recent years has taken a heavy toll on lions, seals, and other mammals. The cases have rattled panda researchers at a time when they are still waiting for the release of figures from China's fourth national panda survey, expected months ago. The deaths have also exposed concerns that China is overemphasizing captive breeding at the expense of conserving the animals' remaining wild habitat in the mountains of western China.