The Giant Panda Biomedical Survey sought to establish a baseline of scientific information on giant pandas living in Chinese zoos and breeding centres as a first step towards establishing a self-sustaining captive population (Zheng et al., 1997; see also Chapter 2). To produce the most information that would allow an understanding of the health and reproductive status of the extant population, we chose an interdisciplinary approach to examine as many health and reproductive traits as possible. What was crucial was the trusting relationship that developed early in the process between the Chinese and American teams which led to a thorough understanding of giant panda biology – information that not only was fascinating from a scholarly perspective but also valuable to improving ex situ management.
This chapter provides detailed methods and medical findings following the assessment of more than 60% of the living Chinese population of giant pandas (as existed in 1996 when the need for a Biomedical Survey was recognised). The results in this chapter address issues ranging from disease conditions to reproductive compromise, all of which ultimately allowed classifying each animal as to its usefulness in achieving the goal of population self-sustainability. The practices and reference values described here will also be useful to those who are interested in closely studying and managing giant pandas in the future.
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