Chengdu – The first panda cub produced by mating a female raised in captivity with a wild male has been born in Sichuan province.
The cub, born in the early hours of Monday, weighed 216g – much heavier than the average 150g for a newborn, according to Zhang Hemin, deputy executive director of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda at the Wolong National Nature Reserve.
Cao Cao, the mother, is 16 years old (equivalent to 48 in human years) and considered old for giving birth, he said.
She had been raised in captivity and was released into the wild at the centre’s Hetaoping base on March 1 in time for the panda mating season, which runs from March to May.
In March, several male pandas were seen fighting for the right to mate with her.
Every five days, researchers at the centre would check the data transmitted by the GPS tag on her neck, which was fitted with a recording device.
When they checked the recording on March 27, they heard her making noises similar to those made by females while mating.
Cao Cao was born in the wild, but was rescued and taken to the centre at age two after she was found in poor health inside the reserve.
Before giving birth on Monday, Cao Cao had already given birth to six cubs.
Two of the six are well-known to pandaphiles – male Tao Tao and female Zhang Xiang.
Both have been released into the wild in the Liziping Nature Reserve in Sichuan.
Tao Tao was two years old when released into the wild in 2012, and Zhang Xiang was the same age when released in 2013.
With the goal of enlarging the wild panda population, the centre has released seven captive pandas in Liziping since 2006.
Five are faring well, including Tao Tao and Zhang Xiang.
The centre used to capture wild pandas for research and reproduction purposes, but since the early 1990s, the government has banned capturing wild pandas.
As a result, captive pandas have had to mate with their captive peers.
As the number of captive pandas is limited, this might result in inbreeding and is not good for biodiversity, according to experts.
The centre formulated a plan last year under which captive pandas could mate with wild ones, and Cao Cao was the first captive panda chosen.
The objective is to improve the gene pool of captive pandas. — China Daily/Asia News Network