There are hundreds of species worldwide that could benefit from a thoughtful, systematic approach to health, reproduction and management challenges faced in an ex situ environment. Although we promote zoos as safe animal havens and as resources for science, we actually do amazingly few experimental investigations to enhance species health and reproduction.
In a way, the giant panda (and the cheetah for that matter) was 'low-hanging fruit' - it was reasonably easy to find interest and funding to elicit the actions described in this and subsequent chapters. The challenge for the future is creating strategies and evoking passion for less charismatic species. Certainly, the giant panda and the cheetah are not the only recalcitrant species maintained in the world's zoos. The main lesson from this chapter is that there are now positive examples of people working together, setting aside personal agendas and dedicating their expertise, time and resources to formulate action plans by consensus, including across cultures. The following chapters will illustrate how the actual science was conducted and how it has contributed to enhanced knowledge and improved giant panda health, reproduction and management.
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