Newborn Giant Pandas Help Increase Genetic Diversity Through Artificial Breeding

Category: Technology / Feb 13, 2013 2:09PM EDT
The eight giant panda cubs born at a breeding base in Chengdu, southwest China's Chengdu Province, in 2012 have made a great contribution to the genetic diversity to the species. Panda artificial breeding work worldwide made a historical breakthrough in 2012 with the captive population reaching 341, meaning that for now the danger of extinction has been eliminated. Moreover, to help maintain the species' genetic diversity, China has implemented a panda breeding project by carefully selecting parents who will produce stronger cubs. Pandas kept at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding are divided into five levels of suitability for breeding, and artificial breeding is only attempted on those listed in the first three levels. "We used to focus only on the quantity of newborn cubs. Now we also attach importance to the quality of the cubs and the contributions they make to the whole species," said Zhang Zhihe, director of Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Eight cubs by six different pandas were born at the base in 2012, a decrease of 50 percent compared to the boom one year earlier. However, despite the drop the eight cubs made a greater contribution to genetic diversity than the nearly 20 cubs born in the previous years. "Now we have changed our focus from quantity to quality. The first priority is to improve the quality of panda cubs by artificial breeding," said Zhang. (Video Source: Reuters)