Behavioural Deficiencies

A review of animal histories indicated a wide range of behavioural irregularities throughout the population. Many potential breeding opportunities had been derailed because of aggression displayed by males toward females, including injuries that prevented safe introduction for mating. We focused on learning the history of each panda, as well as determining whether behavioural or 'personality' traits may have contributed to an individual's reproductive success or failure. To secure the best information possible, we surveyed the people who knew the giant pandas best - the curators and keepers.

Table 3.1 shows that the survey included seven wild-born males and eight wild-born females, along with 17 males and 29 females born in captivity. Origin (wild-born) and, ironically, aggressiveness (for both sexes combined) contributed most significantly to successful production of offspring (see Chapter 5). Wild-born animals, whether male or female, were more effective at mating and rearing offspring. While aggressiveness to other pandas was not associated with breeding success for either males or females, when data for both males and females were combined, aggressive animals tended to have greater reproductive success. Obviously, there is a fine line between 'healthy' aggressive behavioural characteristics, which contribute to successful reproduction and inappropriate aggressive behaviours that thwart successful mating (see Chapter 5).

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