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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2009

2 - The Giant Panda Biomedical Survey: how it began and the value of people working together across cultures and disciplines



This book deals mostly with new biological knowledge and the use of that knowledge to benefit the giant panda by enhancing health, reproduction and management. It is an important strategy for modern-day zoo scientists, conducting ‘basic research’ to learn as much as possible about previously unstudied phenomena in any species, especially those that have received little, if any, attention.

In many ways, a scientist affiliated with a zoo is no different than a university research professor – both study mechanisms by using the scientific method to test hypotheses (Wildt, 2004). What is different about zoo science is the growing emphasis on results having practical uses – addressing issues that are relevant to allowing an animal to be better maintained in captivity, to allow it to thrive, reproduce and help sustain its species. In a perfect world that new knowledge will have duality of purpose, being useful to improving the conservation of in situ as well as ex situ populations. In fact, there now are many examples of ‘captive’ studies that have been useful for re-invigorating or re-establishing wild populations (e.g. golden lion tamarin, scimitar horned oryx, Florida panther, black-footed ferret, red wolf, California condor, among others). But having an in situ benefit is not an essential prerequisite to studying a species because the primary target is always the production of new knowledge – intellectual capital that improves our understanding of the wonders of biology and the natural world.

Brown, J. L., Wildt, D. E., Wielebnowski, al. (1996). Reproductive activity in captive female cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) assessed by faecal steroids. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, 106, 337–46.
Marker, L. and O'Brien, S. J. (1989). Captive breeding of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in North American zoos (1871–1986). Zoo Biology, 8, 3–16.
Wielebnowski, N. C., Ziegler, K., Wildt, D. E., Lukas, J. and Brown, J. L. (2002). Impact of social management on reproduction, adrenal and behavioral activity in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). Animal Conservation, 5, 291–301.
Wildt, D. E. (2004). More meaningful wildlife research by prioritizing science, linking disciplines and building capacity. In Experimental Approaches to Conservation Biology, ed. Gordon, M. and Bartol, S. M.. Davis, CA: University of California Press, pp. 282–97.
Wildt, D. E., Brown, J. L., Bush, M., et al. (1993). Reproductive status of cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in North American zoos: the benefits of physiological surveys for strategic planning. Zoo Biology, 12, 45–80.
Wildt, D. E., Ellis, S. and Howard, J. G. (2001). Linkage of reproductive sciences: from ‘quick fix’ to ‘integrated’ conservation. In Advances in Reproduction in Dogs, Cats and Exotic Carnivores, ed. Concannon, P. W., England, G. C. W., Farstad, al. Colchester, Essex: Journals of Reproduction & Fertility Ltd, pp. 295–307.
Wildt, D. E., Ellis, S., Janssen, D. and Buff, J. (2003). Toward more effective reproductive science for conservation. In Reproductive Sciences and Integrated Conservation, ed. Holt, W. V., Pickard, A. R., Rodger, J. C. and Wildt, D. E.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 2–23.
Zheng, S., Zhao, Q., Xie, Z., Wildt, D. E. and Seal, U. S. (1997). Report of the Giant Panda Captive Management Planning Workshop. Apple Valley, MN: IUCN–World Conservation Union/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.