Giant Panda faces three major difficulties, difficult to mate, difficult to be pregnant and difficult to survive. These difficulties keep Giant Panda in low population. Here we are going to introduce the three important parts for the breeding of giant panda.
Mating and Artificial Insemination
Under the natural state, giant pandas reach sexual maturity between the ages of four and eight, and may be reproductive until age 20. The mating season happens between March and May, when a female goes into her estrous cycle which lasts for two or three days and only occurs once a year.
The copulation time is short, ranging from thirty seconds to five minutes, but the male may mount the female repeatedly to ensure successful fertilization. In the zoo or breeding centers, artificial insemination is commonly applied to help giant panda increase their chances of getting pregnant after natural mating. In 1978, artificial fertilization successfully led to the birth of a panda cub. In 1980, artificial fertilization with refrigerated sperm also succeeded in Chengdu Zoo. In 1990, Chengdu Zoo led the way by raising a pair of twin panda cubs with manual breeding.
The pregnancy of giant panda lasts 83-181 days. And most pregnant females bear their babies during the period from the last ten days of August to the early ten days of September. In the wild, most births only have one cub. Very occasionally twins were born. In the breeding center, because of the application of artificial insemination, about half of the births are twins. In the wild, the females always choose empty trees or caves to labor while in the breeding center there is always a place called nursery with modern facilities for the female panda to bear cubs. Cubs weigh only 90 to 150 grams (3.2 to 5 ounces), which is about 1/800 of the mother's weight.
Due to short gestation, the new born panda cubs are very small and weak. When the cub is first born, it is pink, blind, and toothless. It is a tough task for the mother to protect the new born baby because of the baby's size. It nurses from its mother's breast 6 to 14 times a day for up to 30 minutes at a time. In almost a week, panda mother has to keep licking the now born cub to give it warmth and help it pee and poo. Then the mother may leave the den for three to four hours to feed, which leaves the cub defenseless. One to two weeks after birth, the cub's skin turns gray where its hair will eventually become black. A month after birth, the color pattern of the cub's fur is fully developed. The cub begins to crawl at 75 to 80 days and are able to eat small quantities of bamboo after six months, though mother's milk remains the primary food source for most of the first year. Giant panda cubs live with their mothers until they are 18 months to two years old. If twins are born, usually only one survives in the wild. The mother will select the stronger one, and the weaker will die.
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