updated 9/27/2005 2:31:30 PM ET 2005-09-27T18:31:30

Geez, can't a panda get some privacy? Seeking more data about panda reproduction, a team of Chinese and American scientists plans to monitor their sex lives via the Global Positioning System and other electronic tools, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

The project is focusing on pandas living in the Foping nature reserve, a remote mountainous area in western China where it is extremely difficult to monitor their whereabouts for large parts of the year.

"Giant pandas are inaccessible for long periods of time and traditional observation cannot unravel the ecological mystery of the animals," Xinhua quoted Wei Fuwen, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology, as saying.

The institute is managing the three-year, $660,000 project along with the U.S. Zoological Society of San Diego, California, it said.

"Tracking them with advanced technologies and observing their sex activities might help us find ways to avoid their extinction," Wei was quoted as saying.

The report did not give technical details about how the animals would be monitored.

China regards the panda as an unofficial national mascot, but the animal's limited diet, threatened natural habitat and agonizingly slow reproduction rate has kept its numbers down.

There are an estimated 1,590 wild pandas and another 120 in Chinese breeding facilities and zoos — mostly in western China's Sichuan province.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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