The world’s first giant panda cub with both captive and wild parents has been born in southwestern China, Chinese state media reported on Tuesday.
The cub, born on Monday in Chengdu, Sichuan province, is a milestone in experiments to encourage captive pandas to mate with wild pandas to increase the captive stock’s genetic diversity, Zhang Zhizhong, Communist Party chief of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, is quoted as saying.
The 15-year-old female giant panda Cao Cao delivered the cub past 2am at the Hetaoping semi-wild training base.
The female cub was a bit of a heavyweight at 216 grams, compared with the normal newborn weight of around 150 grams.
Wu Daifu with the training base attributed the cub’s unusually high weight to the mother’s good health and appetite during pregnancy.
Cao Cao was released into the wild on March 1. She was equipped with a positioning system and a recording device on her neck, and remained in the wild for nearly two months.
The recording device showed that Cao Cao went into heat on March 11 and mated with a wild male panda on March 23. The mating lasted for 1½ minutes.
The research centre launched an experiment late last year to bring in genes from the wild population to improve the health of captive pandas.
At the end of 2016, the worldwide captive giant panda population was 471, leading to growing concerns of unhealthy inbreeding, Wu said.
The centre’s deputy head Zhang Hemin said babies from captive and wild parents would enrich the gene pool of the captive stock.
And in Hong Kong, 12-year-old giant panda Ying Ying recently showed signs of pregnancy after four rounds of artificial insemination and various efforts to conceive naturally, raising hopes of the city welcoming its first ever cub.