China's State Forestry Administration confirmed in Beijing Wednesday that the country currently has 217 pandas that have been bred in captivity.
Thirty-four panda cubs were born by artificial insemination in 2006 and 30 of them survived, said spokesperson Cao Qingyao, adding that both figures are records.
Twenty-nine of the surviving panda cubs were bred by zoologists in Southwest China's Sichuan Province with 17 being born at the Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center and 12 at the Chengdu Research Base. The other panda was bred at Chongqing Zoo.
Sources with the forestry administration said earlier that more than 30 female pandas nationwide were inseminated in spring including one at Beijing Zoo and another in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
A panda cub was born at Beijing Zoo but died and an attempt in Shaanxi was not successful, according to the sources. China has been breeding pandas through artificial insemination for nearly 50 years.
Experts estimate there are about 1,600 pandas living in the wild in China. The vast majority of them--about 1,100--reside in the 59 natural reserves that China had set up for pandas by the end of 2006.
(Xinhua News Agency January 4, 2007)