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SAVVY PANDA OUTWITS HER CHINESE SEARCHERS

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Researchers said Friday they underestimated the intelligence of a savvy giant panda who evaded military personnel, police, dogs and volunteers for 80 days before she was captured.

"Snow White" escaped from an exhibition and fled into the mountainous areas near southern Jiangsu Province in mid-September.The 198-pound panda "outwitted the pursuit team by relaxing in an abandoned tomb on the north slope of a mountain for two months while searchers concentrated on the forest-covered slope," the Yangcheng Evening News reported.

Persuers did not consider the north slope until nearby residents found the panda's footprints.

Although five police dogs were used to help track the panda, her keen sense of smell and physical strength outwitted the canines.

"The panda has a better nose for smell than dogs," said veterinarian Fan Peizhong, and "can smell a scent 500 meters (1,650 feet) away."

"The panda ran even faster than us," said one of the search team members, amazed the animal reached speeds of 24 mph.

Native only to southwestern China, the panda is rapidly vanishing as China's burgeoning population encroaches on the animals' habitat. Estimates of the number left in the wild range from 800 to 1,500.