KEYWORDS: pandas panda breeding in captivity breeding practices of pandas panda breeding zoo giant panda from China
BEIJING – Giant pandas show little interest in sex behind bars, but China nevertheless is looking forward to a baby boom this year with 10 females already pregnant and 23 in heat.
‘China expects a record number of baby giant pandas to be born this year,’ the official Xinhua news agency said of the animals kept at two breeding and research centres in the south-western province of Sichuan. Last year, 19 baby pandas were born by natural or artificial insemination in China’s breeding bases and 16 of them survived.
‘The survival rate of panda cubs has risen from 30 per cent several decades ago to nearly 90 per cent now as a result of modern methods in promoting mating and feeding,’ Xinhua said.
But he admitted it was hard to arouse their interest in sex.
Statistics show fewer than 10 per cent of male giant pandas mate naturally and fewer than 30 per cent of females conceive naturally.
‘Giant pandas show little instinctive behaviour in captivity, especially sexual desire, which is essential for natural mating and conception,’ Xinhua said.
Pandas raised in captivity are also often overweight and have trouble mating, hampering efforts to conserve the rare species.
Chinese expert Tang Chunxiang reportedly said at a conference in Hong Kong that conservation workers had introduced an exercise regime to help the pandas lose weight and strengthen their limbs before mating season – which usually starts in March.