As discussed by Ballou and colleagues (in Chapter 21), our data indicate that a high priority for the ex situ population is to maximise genetic representation across the captive population by planned natural ma-tings and by AI. In the short term this will be an important step, especially when few males are naturally mating. However, if a long-term goal of captive breeding is eventually to contribute to reintroduction, then it will also be important to focus on finding ways to improve the proportion of animals that will naturally mate as well as maternally rear cubs. Furthermore, as it is likely that natural mating combined with AI (with multiple males) will continue to occur, paternity testing will be essential for effective programme management. Also, this technology certainly has the potential to improve the effectiveness of AI as a breeding tool. For example, using different males as semen donors on different days of oestrus followed by paternity testing would provide new knowledge on the optimal timing for mating or assisted breeding.
Giant panda DNA has been isolated from blood, faeces, hair and urine (Ding et al., 1997; Fang et al., 1997a); the last three can potentially be obtained from free-living individuals. In turn, the hearty nature of the microsatellites described here will hopefully be incorporated into future studies to evaluate the genetic robustness of the in situ population (e.g. Lu et al. 2001). Microsatellite markers are powerful genetic
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