Priorities For The Future

Although this chapter has reviewed diseases and pathology in the giant panda, it is clear that we have only scratched the surface of what needs to be learned to maintain a healthy, viable captive population effectively. The foremost priority is the institution of systematic, pathological evaluations of diseased giant pandas and certainly of each mortality. This includes the documentation of gross and microscopic pathological examinations, the results of which need to be entered into a computerised, internationally accessible database. As discussed throughout this book, one of the primary reasons for such rapid success in giant panda ex situ management is past and current cross-institutional and multi-disciplinary partnerships. In the spirit of this philosophy, discussions are ongoing about an international partnership that would address the most important aspects of building the knowledge and technical resources necessary for improved health and veterinary management of captive giant pandas in China.

There is clear evidence for such a need, and there is willingness among the appropriate parties to collaborate. As acknowledged in this chapter's introduction, two training workshops associated with veterinary medicine and clinical pathology have already been conducted in China, the first in Chengdu (1999) and the second in Beijing (2002). The need for annual workshops dealing with the diagnosis and understanding of giant panda diseases has been expressed by the Chinese themselves. Such opportunities would allow Chinese and international colleagues to share observations and expertise. After all, none of the problems identified and discussed in this chapter can be resolved by any one person or institution. For this reason, and to begin to understand the pathogenesis and epidemiology of diseases, there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive database for this species that consolidates clinical information, laboratory data and pathology findings. As most of the information will be generated in China, it is imperative that this resource be developed and maintained within that country.

The concerted effort required to build and maintain a giant panda medical and pathology database would improve communication among veterinary staff at different giant panda institutions. The shared information would greatly improve the application of available information for treating and preventing diseases in giant pandas and would enhance research opportunities and activities. Issues of particularly high priority include neonatal immunity, digestive disorders, reproductive failure and developmental abnormalities of cubs associated with nutrition, parasitology, infectious disease and toxicology. These are complex topics, and advances in the veterinary care and disease prevention of giant pandas - as in all wildlife conservation -will depend on functional partnerships within the international community.

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