Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Panda insemination

How did we ever live without the internet? I now know more than I ever thought I would about artificial insemination in panda.

The bottom line is that they DO use artificial insemination now, and it's very successful. However, although China began to try artificial fertilization technologies on giant pandas in the 1960s, success was very low until quite recently. Major breakthroughs only occurred after the 1990's with nine baby pandas from artificial insemination born in 2000, 12 in 2001, 10 in 2002 and 15 in 2003.

Giant pandas show little instinctive behavior in captivity, especially sexual desire, essential for natural mating and conception. Zhang and his team have worked hard in recent years to tackle the endangered animals' breeding problems and have resorted to artificial insemination, frozen semen and even showing the pandas videos on natural mating in the wild to arouse their sexual instincts.

The somewhat clueless nature of the panda has led some to suggest that it may not be worthy of its emblematic status.

"Here's a species that, of its own accord, has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac," said BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham

"Unfortunately, it's big and cute and a symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation."

Packham, who hosts Springwatch, a popular BBC nature show, said money spent trying to save the panda would be better invested in helping other species.

A BBC spokesperson declined to comment, saying Packham's statements were his "personal views".

China Daily had a fairly reasonable report on this with the excellent header:
Anti-panda tirade of bat fan slammed

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