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  • Cited by 11
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2009

16 - Diseases and pathology of giant pandas

Summary

INTRODUCTION

The study and control of diseases have not been traditional priorities in giant panda management, even though neonatal mortality, chronic and debilitating disease, compromised reproduction and premature death have been problems. Recent years have seen an increased awareness of the role of diseases in captive and free-living wildlife populations, with pathology integral to both diagnosis and creating new scholarly knowledge.

Growing concerns in the zoo community about the stress of captivity, pathogen transmission and the emergence of novel infectious agents are driving a rising interest in wildlife disease. It is also critical to understand diseases in ex situ populations of animals that may be released into the wild. The reintroduction of giant pandas into native habitats has been a focus of several conservation proposals, including the National Conservation Management Plan for China (MacKinnon et al., 1989). The recommended course of action in this plan failed to emphasise the importance of veterinary care and pathological investigations of illness and mortality in the captive population. Ten years later, the CBSG Giant Panda Biomedical Survey (1998 to 2000; Zhang et al., 2000; see Chapters 4 and 5) recognised that a clear understanding of health and disease must be a priority in the plan to secure a viable ex situ giant panda population. The next step then would be to integrate new information with mitigating approaches to optimise health, which, in turn, would promote reproduction.

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