Methods to Improve Propagation of Pandas

Giant panda experts and zoologists are working on a worldwide effort to select genetically diverse mates to ensure the birth of healthy panda cubs.

Why the fuss? Because statistics indicate that 78 percent of female giant pandas cannot bear cubs while 90 percent of their male counterparts suffer from sterility, partly due to inbreeding.

On Saturday, 40 experts, nature reserve administrators and zoologists from home and abroad gathered in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, to discuss methods for improving the quality and quantity of giant pandas that live in protection centers or zoos in China and foreign countries.

Due to their limited number and divided management over their care, giant pandas in captivity suffer from inbreeding, and this is affecting the quality of their cubs in varying degrees, experts said.

Seminar participants worked towards mapping out a five-year management and implementation plan that would involve matching up giant pandas with a mate.

There are about 100 giant pandas bred in research centers around the world. More than 30 of them live in the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base. Less than 1,000 giant pandas exist in the world, and 80 percent of that total are found in Sichuan.

Giant panda breeding and research centers around the world will work hand in hand, conducting hereditary analysis and genealogical system research, exchanging frozen sperm and even giant pandas, experts said.

With the involvement of Chinese and US experts, the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base kicked off the building of China's first genome resource bank of endangered animal species last year.

(China Daily January 7, 2002)

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