This year's outbreak of contagious diseases among giant pandas
has emphasized the need for more
measures to ensure the bears' future safety, delegates to the 18th
Annual Conference of the Chinese Committee of Breeding Techniques
for the Giant Panda, have said.
Zhang Zhihe, the committee's chairman, said to avoid possible
future outbreaks of highly infectious diseases, such as SARS
(severe acute respiratory syndrome) and bird flu, it is critical to
do more research on the supervision, prevention and treatment of
such conditions - as well as so far undiagnosed diseases - and
establish an emergency response system.
Speaking at the five-day conference, which ended Thursday in the
Sichuan provincial capital, Yang Xuyu, deputy chief of Sichuan
Wildlife Management Station, said about 20 panda cubs are bred in
captivity every year in China.
But if the bears live together in confined spaces, contagious
diseases can quickly spread.
A delegate who asked not to be named said 10 pandas at the
Wolong Nature Reserve this year became infected with a rare
contagious disease from which two of them later died.
Vets from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding,
where Zhang is based, worked with staff from Wolong to treat the
sick pandas, but failed to diagnose the ailment, he said.
Yang said that in an effort to prevent the spread of potentially
fatal diseases, additional enclosures for the bears will be built
at both Chengdu and Wolong.
The State Forestry Administration recently gave Wolong 20
million yuan ($2.7 million) to build 40 new dens some 20 km from
its existing ones. The Chengdu base is currently considering
possible sites for its new compounds, he said.
Yang also warned of the danger of bamboo flowering, which, since
2005, has expanded to an area of 24,000 hectares in Sichuan - about
1.4 percent of the edible bamboo in the province, he told China
Nine varieties of bamboo have been seen flowering, which account
for about 30 percent of the varieties eaten by pandas.
In the 1980s, in the mountainous regions of Sichuan, extensive
blossoming of the arrow bamboo - the pandas' favorite - led to many
bears dying of disease and starvation, Yang said.
This year, to avoid a recurrence, the Sichuan provincial
forestry bureau has developed an emergency response plan and asked
local forestry bureaux to implement it in the event of extensive
Yang said that if 15 percent of the total bamboo area or 100
percent of a single variety is found to be flowering, all bears in
that area will be inoculated and/or relocated to ensure their
Often referred to as living fossils, giant pandas are found
mainly in Sichuan, which is home to about 1,200 of them, or 76
percent of the country's total.
More than 80 officials and experts from animal protection
organizations in eight countries attended this year's
(China Daily November 16, 2007)