Panda births boost sur­vival hopes

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu huangzhiling@chi­nadaily.com. cn

Nine sets of gi­ant panda twins have been born in Sichuan prov­ince so far this year, boost­ing con­fi­dence in the sur­vival of the en­dan­gered species.

Re­sults of the fourth panda cen­sus, re­leased last year by the State Forestry Ad­min­is­tra­tion, showed there were only 1,864 wild pan­das and 375 cap­tive ones world­wide at the end of 2013.

Pan­das sur­vive solely in six moun­tain ranges in China, five of which are in Sichuan.

On June 20, a panda at the Chengdu Re­search Base of Gi­ant Panda Breed­ing in the prov­ince gave birth to two fe­male cubs, the first new­born panda twins in the world this year.

“Af­ter they were born, an­other six pairs of cubs were born (at the base), with the last pair born on July 26,” base re­searcher Wu Kongju said.

On July 30, two cubs were born at the China Con­ser­va­tion and Re­search Cen­ter for the Gi­ant Panda in Wenchuan county, Sichuan. The next day, an­other pair of cubs were born in its base in Ya’an, Sichuan.

Deputy cen­ter chief Zhang Gui­quan said, “Pan­das mate in spring and give birth in sum­mer. As our cen­ter’s bases are in moun­tains where the tem­per­a­ture is lower, our pan­das mate later than those in Chengdu.

“These four cubs were born af­ter their moth­ers mated nat­u­rally,” he said.

It used to be dif­fi­cult for cap­tive pan­das to mate, but this year’s births show that re­searchers have solved such prob­lems.

The re­searchers ini­tially did not know the pan­das’ habits. Think­ing that they pre­ferred to live a soli­tary ex­is­tence, they kept each panda iso­lated in a tiny den and fed the an­i­mals only bam­boo.

The pan­das be­came de­pressed and had dif­fi­culty in mat­ing.

Dur­ing stud­ies that were started in 1992, the re­searchers placed pan­das into dens oc­cu­pied by the op­po­site sex so that they could get toknow each other through smell.

Wild pan­das search for the best bam­boo that re­ceives ad­e­quate sun­shine and pro­vides the best nu­tri­tion. Re­searchers can­not choose bam­boo for cap­tive pan­das, but have cre­ated a bis­cuit rich in trace el­e­ments and vi­ta­mins.

Wild pan­das are ac­tive for many hours each day. The re­searchers put the bis­cuits where cap­tive pan­das could not find them eas­ily, get­ting the an­i­mals to move around.

“To make them play, we froze fruit be­fore giv­ing it to the cap­tive pan­das. They had to play with the fruit un­til it thawed if they wanted to eat,” saidZhangHemin, chief of the China Con­ser­va­tion and Re­search Cen­ter for the Gi­ant Panda.

SHE YI / FOR CHINA DAILY

New­born pan­das play at a breed­ing cen­ter in Chengdu.

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