23 test tube pandas have survived this year

CCTV News

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A record 23 pandas have survived so far this year after being born using artificial insemination techniques, the world’s largest artificial breeding center for pandas announced Thursday.

A total of 26 panda cubs were born, including nine pairs of twins and one born to Mei Xiang at Washington’s Smithsonian National Zoo of the United States, according to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP).

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Including the new cubs, the center currently has 218 pandas. The previous record was set in 2013, when 20 panda cubs survived.

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Despite the early death of three cubs, the total number of survivors and twins have both set new records since the center was built in southwestern Sichuan province in the 1980s, said Heng Yi, head of the center’s publicity office.

The panda cubs, aged between one to three months old, are all in good health.

“May they survive and thrive,” Heng said.

He attributed the baby boom to more mature breeding techniques, frequent cooperation with foreign zoos,– and a bigger talent pool for the breeding program.

“Over the past two decades, we have seen a steady growth of artificially-bred pandas in our center, meaning we have more options when selecting healthy and biologically-suitable candidates for our breeding program,” Heng said.

There are 1,864 giant pandas live in the wild, mostly in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi. At the end of 2013, there were 375 giant pandas in captivity, according to the latest figures released by China’s forestry administration released this spring.

Giant pandas have a very low fertility rate due to sexual inactivity. Female pandas become pregnant only once a year and deliver three cubs at most each time. Captive giant pandas have an even lower fertility rate because they do not move as much as pandas in the wild.

Story by Xinhua