China sends panda expert to Taiwan to aid breeding

Nov 08, 2009
In this Aug. 1, 2009 photo, a giraffe from Africa's most endangered giraffe subspecies stands in the bush near Koure, Niger. By all accounts, they should be extinct. Instead, their numbers have quadrupled to 200 since 1996, an unlikely boon experts credit to the concurrence of an impoverished government keen for revenue that has enacted laws to protected them, a conservation program that encourages people to support them, and a rare harmony with humans who have accepted their presence. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

(AP) -- Nothing like a little time apart to rekindle the affections that could lead to a baby panda.

So says a panda expert sent by China to Taiwan to advise on how to encourage mating by the pair given by Beijing last December to mark the two sides' growing friendship.

After inspecting the at the Taipei Zoo on Sunday, Chinese panda expert Zhang Hemin suggested a separation of a month or two might boost the feeling of attraction needed to reproduce.

"They may have more interest toward each other after a brief separation," said Zhang, a researcher at the Wolong Natural Reserve in western Sichuan province where the pandas are from.

China presented Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, which together mean "reunion," to Taiwan last December amid warming ties between the mainland and the island, which split amid civil war in 1949.

They have proved popular and many Taiwanese now wish to see them produce a baby in their new home.

Zhang said the environment at the Taipei Zoo was natural enough and would not hamper their breeding, but the animals may have become too used to each others' presence.

Zhang also suggested that to prepare the male, Tuan Tuan, for the vital mating act, the zookeepers should set up more wooden racks so he can climb around and strengthen his hind legs.

If all works, the much anticipated act could come during the pandas' brief mating season in February, Zhang said.

Pandas are threatened by a low reproduction rate. Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two to three years, and the fertility of captive giant pandas is even lower, experts say.

Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in China's Sichuan province. An additional 120 are in Chinese breeding facilities and zoos, and about 20 live in zoos outside China.

China initially offered the pandas to Taiwan in 2005, but the then pro-independence government of Chen Shui-bian rejected the gift as propaganda to push for unification. After Ma Ying-jeou of the rival Nationalist Party was inaugurated in May last year, he accepted the offer.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Brain circuit differences reflect divisions in social status

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pandas to return to famous China reserve in 2012

Sep 20, 2009

(AP) -- Sixty pandas relocated last year from a famous Chinese nature reserve after their breeding center was severely damaged by a massive earthquake will return home after repairs in 2012.

China announces first panda from frozen sperm

Jul 24, 2009

(AP) -- China announced the first successful birth of a panda cub from artificial insemination using frozen sperm, giving a new option for the famously unfertile endangered species, officials said Friday.

U.S. and China study giant pandas

Nov 27, 2005

A team of Chinese and U.S. zoologists Sunday began a joint study of wild giant pandas in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Pandas mate with help at the National Zoo

Mar 24, 2008

U.S. veterinarians have artificially inseminated Mei Xiang, a female giant panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, after natural mating was unsuccessful.

To catch a panda

Dec 10, 2007

Michigan State University’s panda habitat research team has spent years collecting mountains of data aimed at understanding and saving giant pandas. Now a graduate student is working to catch crucial data that’s black, ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0