Panda twins mean dou­ble de­light for tourists

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

A pack of new­born panda twins will greet vis­i­tors to the Chengdu Re­search Base of Giant Panda dur­ing the seven-day Na­tional Day hol­i­day that starts on Oct 1.

“They can have a close look at the twins in the nursery and be sep­a­rated from the cubs from a glass win­dow only,” ac­cord­ing to Zhang Zhihe, chief of the cen­ter in Sichuan province.

Six­teen cubs in eight pairs of twins were born at the cen­ter this year.

“In ad­di­tion to the 16 twins, seven in­di­vid­ual cubs were born this year,” he said.

In the mid-1980s, wild pan­das were on the brink of ex­tinc­tion as the bam­boo they eat blos­somed, caus­ing a food short­age. Bam­boo plants die af­ter they bloom.

Zhang’s cen­ter was set up in 1987 to save six hun­gry and sick pan­das res­cued from the wild in the af­ter­math of bam­boo blos­som­ing. It is home to 176 cap­tive pan­das.

The ris­ing num­ber of cap­tive pan­das has a lot to do with tech­niques to change their nat­u­ral re­luc­tance to mate.

The base is mak­ing male pan­das walk on two legs. The dance­like rou­tine strength­ens the pelvic and hip area and also boosts the an­i­mal’s sex­ual stamina, zookeep­ers say.

In an ef­fort to en­cour­age breed­ing, the cen­ter also re­lies on a spe­cial odor to re­mind pan­das of sex dur­ing the spring, when they are in heat.

“We place male pan­das in the dens of fe­male pan­das and vice versa. A male panda can smell the odor left be­hind by the fe­male panda, which con­tains in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to sex and vice versa,” said Fei Lisong, a se­nior re­searcher of the base.

“When they show symp­toms at the same time of want­ing to have sex, the base places them to­gether in the same den. The symp­toms in­clude anx­i­ety,” he said.

The cen­ter also re­lies on its more se­nior pan­das to show the way.

“We ar­range love­mak­ing between two ac­com­plished pan­das in front of in­ex­pe­ri­enced pan­das, which have never had sex. It does work,” Fei said. “More than 30 per­cent of pan­das at the base can have sex nat­u­rally, com­pared with only 10 per­cent about 20 years ago.”

“The pur­poses of breed­ing cap­tive pan­das are to in­crease their num­ber, save them from ex­tinc­tion and re­turn them to the wild to en­large the nat­u­ral panda pop­u­la­tion,” said Hu Jinchu, pro­fes­sor of the school of life science of China West Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity in Nan­chong, Sichuan province.

SHE YI / FOR CHINA DAILY

About 23 giant pan­das born in 2016 are seen on a dis­play at the Chengdu Re­search Base of Giant Panda Breed­ing on Thurs­day in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

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