Number of pandas successfully bred in China down from last year 2007-11-08 19:30:46   Print

    BEIJING, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Thirty-one giant pandas were born in captivity in China this year and 25 survived, down from last year's figures, the State Forestry Administration said on Thursday.

    Last year, China recorded 33 births, of which 30 survived.

    Of the 25 alive and well this year, 16 are living at the China Giant Panda Research Center in Wolong, a nature reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province, and eight live at a research and breeding base in the provincial capital of Chengdu, according to Cao Qingrao, a spokesman for the administration.

    Zhang Zhihe, head of China Giant Panda Breeding Technology Commission, told Xinhua, "Considering the difficult breeding process of giant pandas, a survival rate of 80 percent or so is quite high."

    According to Zhang, over the 40-year history of artificial breeding, the survival rate of newborn panda cubs averages less than 60 percent.

    Due to the development of breeding technology, the figure reached 90 percent in some years after 2000, but it is still unstable, Zhang said.

    He noted three newborn cubs died in Wolong this year.

    Cao Qingrao said China now has 239 giant pandas in captivity, including 128 in Wolong and 67 in Chengdu. Around 1,590 are thought to be living in the wild in China.

    Under Sino-foreign cooperation schemes, 27 giant pandas live outside the country, including 12 in the United States, eight in Japan, two in Thailand, three in Austria and two in Spain. Of the 27, 18 were provided by China, and nine were bred abroad - four in the United States, another four in Japan and one in Austria.

    China sent 24 giant pandas to nine countries as gifts between 1957 and 1982 and five of their offspring are still alive.

    The government stopped the program in 1985 and launched long-term cooperation on giant panda breeding with Japan, the United States and Spain in 1994, since when, 25 pandas have been leased to the countries.

    According to the cooperation agreement, cubs born overseas to pandas on loan remain China's property and should be returned to China after they become sexually mature or the agreement expires.

    A male panda born in the United States four years ago, which was named Mei Sheng, returned to his hometown in southwest China Wednesday.

    A brief medical check-up for Mei Sheng -- aged four, weighing 85 kg -- showed that he was in good condition.

    Mei Sheng, which means "born in America" or "beautiful life" in Chinese, was born on Aug. 19, 2003 at the San Diego Zoo in southern California. His parents were Bai Yun and Gao Gao, a couple lent to the zoo by China under a giant panda conservation and research program.

    The first overseas-born panda Hua Mei, Mei Sheng's sister, came back to China from the United States in spring of 2004 when she was five years old. Hua Mei gave birth to a twins in autumn that year.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang
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