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Stop pampering Giant Pandas: Experts

Beijing: China should not pamper the Giant Pandas though they are one of its national treasures, wildlife experts say, citing very low birthrate among the endangered cuddly animal.

While the welfare of the animals must still be taken into consideration, the experts say the pandas should actually be given less care than they are currently used to, as it may prevent them from adapting to living in the wild.

Since the Giant Pandas are an endangered species, they often receive more care in the Chinese zoos and research centres than other animals.

"It is unfair for the animals to breed them in captivity like pets," the official Xinhua news agency quoted the vice head of the Beijing Zoo, Zhang Jinyuan, as saying.
Most panda cubs begin life in an incubator, far from the natural touch of their mother. These pandas don`t even have to mate when they get older, as artificial insemination ensures that they will reproduce, regardless of their mating habits.

According to Zhang Hemin, chief of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, the ability of pandas to mate is eroding because of the tradition of using artificial insemination to help them reproduce.

In southwest Sichuan Province, the Wolong panda breeding research base is home to a variety of male and female pandas born in captivity. Approximately one-third of the base`s female pandas and two-thirds of its male pandas, however, have shown no interest in mating, the report said.

"During their mating season, they have failed to seek out new partners on their own," Zhang Hemin said.

Zhang Hemin said that even with the help of breeding experts, about 70 per cent of the base`s panda couples will fail to mate.

The captive nature of the pandas also causes problems in feeding. Zhang Jinyuan said that if the pandas are fed regularly by human keepers, "they will lose their basic capacity to survive in the wild."

"Xiang Xiang" was the first panda to be released into the wild forests near the Wolong base in 2006. He was found dead 10 months later, having been attacked and killed by wild pandas.

Zhang Jinyuan said that many Chinese zoos are changing the way they raise their pandas, implementing more "wild breeding" techniques to aid the pandas in regaining their wild instincts.

"Refraining from giving excessive care to the pandas is actually the best way for us to take care of them," he said.

Giant pandas, known for being sexually inactive, are among the world`s most endangered animals due to shrinking habitat. There are about 1,600 Giant Pandas living in China`s wild, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu.

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