China to help with U.S. panda mating

Jan. 21, 2011 at 4:39 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Chinese experts will tackle fertility problems that have seen the National Zoo's pandas produce only one cub during 10 years in Washington, zoo officials say.

The effort will be a major focus of the new agreement between the zoo and Chinese wildlife experts that extended the stay of Tian Tian, 13, and his mate, Mei Xiang, 12, for five years, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The two have never successfully mated naturally, zoo officials said.

Their lone offspring, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 via artificial insemination.

Female pandas generally can breed only once a year.

"What we've got here is a wonderful blend of scientists, both on the American side and on the Chinese side, who are dealing with endocrinology and reproductive science," zoo director Dennis W. Kelly said.

"But we also have [Chinese] practitioners who've dealt with dozens and dozens of [giant panda] pregnancies that can give us tips and insights on what techniques, what routines, have worked with … other matings and pregnancies," he said.

"There's some science and there's some art, and we are getting the best of both in this study," he said.

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