A female giant panda was recently artificially inseminated at Zoo Atlanta. It is currently unknown whether the attempt will prove fruitful, as panda births in captivity are rare. Hope is up, however, as two panda cubs have been born to the mother bear in the past. Female pandas are only fertile for two or three days a year, making the insemination that much more difficult. Only time will tell now, hopefully with a cub being born in 90 to 160 days.
The giant panda is an endangered, bamboo-eating bear, indigenous to China. It is interesting that they eat bamboo, which makes up 99% of their diet, as they still have the digestion makeup of a carnivore. They are unable to fully process the vegetation, receiving little energy from it. It is because of this that giant pandas must eat 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo each day, and live relatively solitary, docile lives.
There are an estimated 2000 pandas in the wild and about 250 in captivity. While these numbers have increased recently, the survival of the species remains unsure. Pandas have been victims of poaching since ancient times, but have been less threatened by this in recent times. Increased penalties on poachers, including the death penalty, have demotivated most interested in the money from their skins.The main threat however remains the degradation of their habitat. Because of their love of bamboo, giant pandas have limited options of where to live. As China has expanded development into the hills and mountains where the bamboo grows, giant pandas have had fewer places to roam. Now that captive breeding programs are becoming more successful, the problem is becoming more apparent, as locations simply do not exist in the wild to support the current number of pandas. Panda reserves have been created in the hopes of protecting some land for the pandas, if their numbers return to normal.
via Orlando Sentinel