Last updated September 13, 2017 at 11:28 am
Welcome to panda watch, your official guide to getting more pandas in your life.
Native to China, their existence has long been under threat. Giant pandas are notoriously difficult creatures to breed and have suffered due to habitat loss, and poaching during the early 20th century. As an act of political diplomacy, China even created “panda diplomacy” in which pandas are loaned out to countries, usually for ten years. In Australia, pandas can be found at Adelaide Zoo.
Some positive news is that in September 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature upgraded their over 20-year status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” after an increase in their population over the last decade thanks to the hard work of conservationists. Only over 1,800 exist today so it’s still a long way to go.
Breeding programs around the world have tried all sorts of methods to get pandas to mate. Most recently in August 2017, a panda cub was given birth to at a French zoo. Currently, we’re fine tuning our focus on Edinburgh Zoo where Tian Tian is suspected to be pregnant with confirmation later this month – hopefully!
Pandas are tricky to breed for a number of reasons. They have the ability to have pseudo or phantom pregnancies in which their body mimics the hormonal and behavioural changes associated with pregnancy. Even if they are pregnant, their bodies can re-absorb their foetus on top of the possibility of a miscarriage.
The period that a female is receptive to breeding is a tiny window of 2-3 days, so the minute the female shows signs, it’s all systems go to make the most of it.
Even with breeding programs involving artificial insemination, it can be hard to detect success. It’s near impossible to detect a tiny foetus underneath a belly full of fat and organs, even with an ultrasound. Pregnancies can last anywhere from three to five months because the embryo may not embed in the uterine lining immediately after conception.
Despite all this, pandas are still incredible creatures. They spend a lot of their time eating and sleeping, which sounds quite ideal.
Sanctuaries and zoos around the world have set up live cameras aka panda cams. Don’t think I wasn’t going to stick true to my word of panda watch.
Bookmark these in your browser for your regular viewing pleasure:
- Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Panda Cams, where you can watch giant pandas Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Bei Bei in Washington DC: nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/panda-cam
- Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China is a well-known institution: en.ipanda.com/live/
- San Diego Zoo’s pandas Gao Gao, Bai Yun, and Xiao Liwu: zoo.sandiegozoo.org/cams/panda-cam
- Shenshuping Gengda Panda Center in China offers 4 views into their panda yards: explore.org/livecams/panda-bears/china-panda-cam-2
— Kelly (@kellyyyllek) August 20, 2017