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News Article | September 7, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

Mother giant panda Aibang is seen with her newborn cub at a giant panda breeding centre in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, May 6, 2016. China Daily/via REUTER BEIJING (Reuters) - It is too soon to downgrade the conservation status of China's giant pandas as they still face severe threats, a leading conservationist said, after the International Union for Conservation of Nature took the species off its endangered list. The giant panda has emerged as a success story for conservation in China whose cause has been championed right up to the highest levels in Beijing, where leaders often give the animal to other countries as a sign of friendship. As of the end of 2015, China had 1,864 giant pandas in the wild, up from about 1,100 in 2000, with 422 in captivity, according to the government. But on Sunday, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reclassified the species as "vulnerable" rather than "endangered", citing growing numbers in the wild due to decades of protection efforts. Zhang Hemin, of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, known in China as the "father of pandas", told the official Xinhua news agency that this was a hasty move. "A severely fragmented natural habitat still threatens the lives of pandas; genetic transfer between different populations will improve, but is still not satisfactory," Zhang said in a report late on Tuesday. "Climate change is widely expected to have an adverse effect on the bamboo forests which provide both their food and their home. And there is still a lot to be done in both protection and management terms." The wild giant panda population faced a lack of genetic diversity as it was broken up into 33 isolated groups, some of which had fewer than 10 individuals, Zhang said. Of those 18 sub-populations with fewer than 10 pandas, all faced "a high risk of collapse", he added. Only when the wild population could grow steadily without the addition of captive-bred pandas could the species be called less endangered, Zhang said. "If the conservation status is downgraded, protection work might slacken off and both the panda population and their habitat are more likely to suffer irreversible loss," he added. "The present protection achievements will be lost and some small sub-populations may die out." Shi Xiaogang, of the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwestern Sichuan province, China's main panda conservation centre, said pandas still needed continuous protection, according to Xinhua. It was good China's efforts had been recognized. "But as conservators, we know that the situation of the wild panda is still very risky," Shi said.

News Article | December 15, 2015
Site: phys.org

When all else failed, they have often had to rely on artificial insemination to ensure the endangered black and white creatures have cubs. On Tuesday, a study suggested the answer may be a lot simpler and, perhaps, more obvious—let the pandas choose their own mates. "Giant pandas paired with preferred partners have significantly higher copulation and birth rates," researchers noted in the journal Nature Communications. Generally, pandas in captivity are presented with a mate chosen by scientists based on the animals' "genetic profile". The goal is to minimise inbreeding and expand the DNA pool. But the result is often frustrating, with the animals having to be coaxed through human intervention to show even the slightest sexual interest in the mate thrust upon them. A team from the United States and China ran a test at the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in Sichuan province, to see if being allowed to choose their own partner might make a difference. Male and female pandas were housed in enclosures with animals of the opposite sex on either side. They were allowed limited physical interaction with their neighbours through cage bars. Scientists measured the animals' "mate preference behaviour", which included different forms of playfulness and bond-forming, as well as sexual arousal. "Negative" interactions could include signs of aggression or a mere lack of interest. The animals were then introduced to each other for mating—with both preferred and non-preferred partners. "The highest reproductive performance was seen when both males and females showed mutual preference," the researchers found. The results should come as no big surprise—ever since Charles Darwin published his theory of sexual selection in 1859, scientists have understood that mate selection is key to animal reproduction. "Mate incompatibility can impede captive breeding programmes by reducing reproductive rates," wrote the study authors. "It is therefore surprising that mate preferences have not figured more prominently in captive breeding programmes." The findings may help China better spend its limited conservation budget, the scientists added. "The future of conservation breeding will not take place in a test tube," they wrote. The most cost-effective way to get captive animals to produce offspring is to breed them naturally, and "to do that requires better understanding of natural mating behaviour", they concluded. "Mate choice has an important role to play in conservation." The authors said their study was the first to "rigorously examine" the effects of mate preference in giant pandas. Pandas have only a brief breeding season from around March to May—and females become fertile only about two to three days a year, producing a cub approximately every 24 months. Conservation group WWF estimates there are only around 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild in south-central China.

News Article | February 23, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

BEIJING (AP) — An American-born panda started settling into her new home Thursday in southwest China where she will eventually join a breeding program. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo in Washington to panda parents on loan from China. Under an agreement between China and the U.S., such panda cubs must be returned to China before they are 4 years old, the earliest age at which they might begin breeding. The 3-year-old landed in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province on Wednesday after a 16-hour flight in a Boeing 777 emblazoned with a picture of a giant bamboo-eating panda. She was accompanied by a veterinarian panda keeper Marty Dearie from the National Zoo, which had put on six days of commemorations to mark her departure. Transported to the nearby Dujiangyan panda breeding base, Bao Bao emerged from her crate looking somewhat timid and curious, but soon settled in with a snack of fresh bamboo, according to a news release from the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas. Bao Bao, whose name means "precious" or "treasure," will first go through a month-long quarantine at the Dujiangyan base, the research center said. Keepers will monitor her diet, activities and health during that time, including checking her blood and feces, it said. "Once Bao Bao the panda completes this month of quarantine, she'll go on display to the public and I welcome everyone to come see her then," research center expert Li Desheng was quoted as saying in the news release. A 100-square meter (1,100-square foot) enclosure has been prepared for her at the base, including both indoor and outdoor play areas, equipped with rubber balls and a tires swing for entertainment and fresh bamboo and apples for eating. Keepers will work on helping Bao Bao adapt to local bamboo and Chinese steamed bread made from corn, soybeans, rice and eggs, the official Xinhua News Agency said. She is the 11th panda to be born overseas and returned to China, and since she does not understand commands in Chinese, she'll be looked after for a time by an English-speaking keeper, Xinhua said. China's unofficial national mascot, giant pandas live mainly in the mountains of Sichuan, with some also found in neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. They have long considered one of the world's most endangered animals, although last year a leading international group lowered its classification to "vulnerable." The International Union for the Conservation of Nature cited conservation efforts that helped the wild panda population jump to 1,864 in 2014 from 1,596 in 2004. However, the Chinese government rejected the group's decision, saying the panda's status was no less serious because its natural habitats have been splintered by human and natural causes. More than 200 giant pandas also live in captivity.

Hull V.,Michigan State University | Xu W.,CAS Research Center for Eco Environmental Sciences | Liu W.,Michigan State University | Zhou S.,China Conservation and Research | And 12 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

Protected areas worldwide are facing increasing pressures to co-manage human development and biodiversity conservation. One strategy for managing multiple uses within and around protected areas is zoning, an approach in which spatial boundaries are drawn to distinguish areas with varying degrees of allowable human impacts. However, zoning designations are rarely evaluated for their efficacy using empirical data related to both human and biodiversity characteristics. To evaluate the effectiveness of zoning designations, we developed an integrated approach. The approach was calibrated empirically using data from Wolong Nature Reserve, a flagship protected area for the conservation of endangered giant pandas in China. We analyzed the spatial distribution of pandas, as well as human impacts (roads, houses, tourism infrastructure, livestock, and forest cover change) with respect to zoning designations in Wolong. Results show that the design of the zoning scheme could be improved to account for pandas and their habitat, considering the amount of suitable habitat outside of the core zone (area designated for biodiversity conservation). Zoning was largely successful in containing houses and roads to their designated experimental zone, but was less effective in containing livestock and was susceptible to boundary adjustments to allow for tourism development. We identified focus areas for potential zoning revision that could better protect the panda population without significantly compromising existing human settlements. Our findings highlight the need for evaluating the efficacy of zoning in other protected areas facing similar challenges with balancing human needs and conservation goals, not only in China but also around the world. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

News Article | February 21, 2017
Site: www.businesswire.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bao Bao (BOW-BOW) the 3 ½ year-old giant panda began her journey to China this morning. She departed the Smithsonian’s National Zoo at 11 a.m. for Dulles International Airport, where she will board a FedEx Express 777F plane bound for Chengdu, China. The non-stop flight will take about 16 hours. Bao Bao’s departure from the Zoo was broadcast via Facebook Live. This morning, the panda team arrived at 6:30 a.m. to finalize preparations for Bao Bao’s departure. Bao Bao received her morning diet of 17 pounds (8 kilograms) of bamboo and 5.4 (150 grams) leafeater biscuits and spent time in her outdoor habitat. Already acclimated from daily training, keeper Marty Dearie called Bao Bao back indoors and then into the custom travel crate at approximately 10 a.m. Zoo staff moved the crate onto a specially-decorated forklift which traveled carefully out of the David M. Rubenstein Giant Panda Habitat through the Zoo and was loaded on a FedEx Express truck. Dennis Kelly, director of the Zoo, was joined by Ambassador Cui Tiankai from the People’s Republic of China, Smithsonian Regent and Zoo giant panda conservation program supporter David Rubenstein and animal care staff to say goodbye. The “FedEx Panda Express,” a custom-decaled 777F aircraft, is expected to depart at 1:30 p.m. today from Dulles International Airport. FedEx supports the movement of rescued or endangered animals across the country and around the world as part of its commitment to sustainability. “At FedEx, we take great pride in using our global networks to move precious cargo around the world,” said Dave Bronczek, president & COO, FedEx Corp. “Through our charitable shipping program, we are honored to be entrusted with Bao Bao’s journey to her new home in China. Our team of skilled logistics experts, pilots and drivers are honored to support the efforts to preserve this beloved, rare animal. I extend a special thanks to our team members who go above and beyond every single day to make a positive impact in our communities.” In 2010, FedEx Express transported Bao Bao’s brother Tai Shan from The National Zoo to the China Conservation and Research Center in Chengdu. FedEx Express also provided the transport for Bao Bao’s parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, from China to the United States in 2000. The Zoo will broadcast the departure of the plane on Facebook. The specialized travel crate is made of steel and weighs approximately 800 lbs. Marty Dearie, one of the keepers who has cared for Bao Bao since her birth, and Katharine Hope, veterinarian at the Zoo will make the 8,600-mile trip with her. They will continuously monitor Bao Bao during the trip and are traveling with a supply of her favorite treats, including 50 pounds of bamboo, 2 pounds of apples, 2 bags of leafeater biscuits, cooked sweet potatoes and water. Upon arrival in Chengdu, Bao Bao’s new keepers from China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda will drive her to Dujiangyan Panda Base where she will stay in quarantine for approximately 30 days. The American team will follow, and Dearie will remain with Bao Bao for three days while she acclimates to her new home. It is not confirmed if Bao Bao will remain at Dujiangyan after the quarantine period has ended. Bao Bao will enter the giant panda breeding program when she reaches sexual maturity between 5 and 6 years old. The panda team prepared Bao Bao for the move to make sure she is comfortable and safe during her journey. To slowly acclimate her to the travel crate, keepers asked Bao Bao to walk through it every day. After she became comfortable doing that, they got her used to spending short periods of time in it with the doors closed. Bao Bao was born at 5:32 p.m. Aug. 23, 2013, at the Zoo’s David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. Her name translates to “precious” or “treasure” in Chinese. Both Mrs. Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States, and Madame Peng Liyuan, first lady of China sent congratulatory messages for her naming ceremony when she was 100 days old. At her first birthday zhuazhou (dra-JO) ceremony, she selected a banner depicting peaches, representing longevity. She is the second surviving cub of her parents Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN). Giant pandas are listed as “vulnerable” in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are an estimated 1,800 in the wild. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is a leader in giant panda conservation. Ever since these charismatic bears arrived at the Zoo in 1972, animal care staff and scientists have studied giant panda biology, behavior, breeding, reproduction, and disease. These experts are also leading ecology studies in giant panda’s native habitat. The Zoo’s giant panda team works closely with colleagues in China to advance conservation efforts around the world. Chinese scientists are working to reintroduce giant pandas to the wild. The Zoo is posting and sharing content on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #ByeByeBaoBao.

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