China’s Baby Panda Boom
Some cynics predicted that Giant pandas were headed for extinction, but officials in China released news on Tuesday that 2010 is proving to be a booming year for baby panda births.
A record breaking 19 cubs have been born in captivity this year. This exceeds the previous high of 18 births in 2006.
The most recent additions were healthy female twins born last week to a Giant panda named Yo Yo at the Wolong Panda reserve in Sichuan province.
Tang Chunxiang, an expert at the panda reserve, said in a story from the Associated Press that several factors attributed to the baby boom.
Scientists have a better understanding about panda nutrition, artificial insemination and panda genetics. They have also become more skillful at creating natural looking habitats for the animals.
Giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world. There are an estimated 1,600 animals living in the wild. They are threatened by loss of land, poachers and low birth rates.
The typical female panda is only able to conceive three days a year and gives birth to one cub every two to three years.
This number tumbled even lower for the 300 Giant pandas living in captivity. For years wildlife experts tried to mate the animals naturally, but the process failed miserably. Finally they tackled the declining birth rate by using artificial insemination and the formula to make the panda population thrive – was born.
Now there are millions of sperm samples frozen in protective containers for future use.
But scientists want to move slow and steady about increasing the number of pandas in the world.
“Right now, we’re breeding about the same number of pandas each year,” said Tang. “We want to steady the numbers to avoid inbreeding since there are so few pandas.”
There are no plans to release any of the newborns into the wild. Scientists say they simply do not know how to make that scenario work for the pandas born in captivity. Most are handled like human babies during their infancy by their caregivers and are much too trusting of humans.
A representative from the panda reserve said, “There has never been a successful reintroduction of a Giant panda into the wild,” but he hoped to find a solution to this dilemma in the future.
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