Priorities For The Future

In the last decade, there have been remarkable advances in reducing newborn giant panda mortality, largely through improvements in husbandry, especially in feeding the neonate and salvaging both offspring (in the case of twins). In the past, the inevitable loss in one twin was a colossal waste of a valuable resource. The technique of twin swapping has been one of the greatest contributors to the recent substantial growth in the ex situ population.

We predict that progress could be further accelerated if giant panda milk composition and lactation characteristics could be determined throughout the natural lactation curve. There is also a need to establish the significance of colostrum for this species as well as to develop colostrum alternatives for establishing or boosting passive immunity. Finally, to better understand requirements associated with developmental nutrition, there is a need to understand more about young giant pandas in nature. For example, a particularly high priority should be elucidating the age at which solid foods become the primary nutritional source as well as foods that are selected during that transitional period.

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