Giant Pandas In Captivity In China

Unlike other prominent species (e.g. the tiger and crane), the giant panda has never been entrenched in historical Chinese culture, including the arts and literature. The earliest recorded giant pandas in captivity were held in the Emperor's garden during the Han Dynasty (206 BC to AD 226) in the then-capital of Xian. In more modern times (mid-20th century), the species was held by more western than Chinese zoos. The first serious interest in exhibiting the species in China occurred in Chongqing in 1941, but it was 10 years later when pandas began appearing regularly in Chinese zoos.

By the early 1960s there was evidence of targeted management, largely on the basis of reproductive success, albeit with inconsistency (see Chapter 19). The first ever birth by natural mating in captivity occurred at the Beijing Zoo in 1963. This same institution produced the first cub from artificial insemination (AI) with fresh sperm in 1978. The Chengdu Zoo was the first to produce a cub by AI with frozen-thawed semen in 1980. Through 1989, giant pandas were successively bred at zoos in Kunming, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Fuzhou and Xian, and at the Wolong Nature Reserve's breeding centre. From 1990 to 2002,179 cubs were born from 126 pregnancies, with 71% of neonates surviving (see Chapter 19). And, interestingly, dedicated captive breeding activities complemented parallel efforts at protecting giant panda habitat as the first three giant panda reserves were established in 1963, growing to 13 by 1989 and to more than 40 today.

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