China’s ’spoilt’ pandas

June 18th, 2011 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 18 (IANS) Giant pandas in China’s research centres have become “spoilt” because of the extra care taken by experts for these lovable creatures that were once on the verge of extinction.

Experts said pandas should be given “less care” than they are currently used to, as it may prevent them from adapting to life in the wild.

“It is unfair for the animals to breed them in captivity like pets,” Zhang Jinyuan, deputy head of the Beijing Zoo, was quoted as saying by the Shanghai Daily.

Most panda cubs begin life in an incubator, far from the natural touch of their mother. These pandas do not even have to mate when they get older, as artificial insemination ensures they will reproduce, regardless of their mating habits.

Zhang Hemin, chief of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, said the ability of pandas to mate was being “eroded” because of the tradition of using artificial insemination to help them reproduce.

In Sichuan province, the Wolong Panda Breeding Research Base is home to a number of males and females born in captivity. Approximately a third of the base’s female pandas and two-thirds of its males have shown no interest in mating.

“During the mating season, they failed to seek out partners on their own,” Zhang Hemin said.

Zhang Jinyuan said if the pandas are fed regularly by human keepers, “they will lose their basic capacity to survive in the wild”.

The Beijing Zoo earlier used to have keepers feed bamboo to pandas. Now there are bamboo plants to allow the animals to find their own food. This is aimed at creating a near-wild environment.

The Wolong base would soon release pandas in a “semi-wild” environment to prepare them for the real thing.

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