Giant Pandas Get Genetic ID Cards

The 78 wild pandas living in the two state-level nature reserves have got their genetic ID cards recently, which were developed by Zhejiang University. From now on, the management of pandas will enter a more scientific age.

Professor Fang Shengguo from the Life Science Institute of Zhejiang University is responsible for the research and development of the genetic ID card. Through 10 years of great effort, he and his colleagues brought out the first such card in the key lab for the protection, inheritance and breeding of endangered wildlife under the Ministry of Education. The ID card is composed of two parts: One is the numerical codes, showing the country, province (or autonomous region), prefecture, county, and nature reserve a panda lives and the family a panda belongs to; the other is the gene bar code featuring the sex and individual characteristics of each panda. Consequently, the rate of error for such gene ID card is only one out of 1.6 billion.

By probing the gene fingerprint and extracting DNA from panda's overall gene organization, Prof. Fang and other scientists can successfully confirm the DNA of giant pandas and other herbivorous animals. Also, they can effectively confirm the family structure of each individual panda.

In 1998, the Zhejiang University, Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base as well as Foping and Tangjiahe nature reserves at the state level, which are located respectively in Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, formed a research group. They swept through an area of over 900 square km and collected excrement and hairs of pandas living in the two nature reserves. Then, they extracted the gene group DNA of pandas from each sample. Employing the gene probing test, they got the gene fingerprint of each sample.

To date, the lab with which Fang works has completed the ID card management system of individual gene of wild pandas living in the two nature reserves and established complete gene files for each panda.

The two sets of files will be sent to the two nature reserves soon, said Fang. The management of the files will then be passed to the nature reserves. Meanwhile, Fang plans to set up such gene management files in all the panda nature reserves of the country. "By then, once a panda strays from a group, its identification and address will be soon found out through its ID card and file. If a new panda is discovered, scientists will test its gene and decide which family it belongs to and what sex it is, thus giving it a new ID card and register it. What's more, if a panda wants to give a birth by artificial propagation, see its gene code first, then inbreeding will be avoided."

(CIIC 03/01/2001)

In This Series

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