Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 August 2009
The medical management of giant pandas has advanced significantly in recent years due to cooperative programmes between Chinese and western institutions, specifically zoos and breeding centres. Key to these partnerships have been veterinarians who have become committed to understanding the diseases affecting this species. Progress has emanated from efforts such as the Biomedical Survey (see Chapter 4) and international personnel exchanges related to giant panda loans to western zoos (see Chapter 22). The result has been many opportunities for veterinarians working with giant pandas to share philosophies, tools, expertise and knowledge which, in turn, have vastly improved medical care of this species in captivity.
There are unique as well as overlapping medical issues impacting the giant panda according to age. For example, Chapter 13 has already addressed health-related topics facing neonates and juveniles. After four years of age, however, the giant panda has matured physically and sexually, leaving behind many of the diseases associated with its youth. Then, after the age of 20 years and during the period of reproductive senescence, another set of potential problems face managers and veterinarians – degenerative changes related to the geriatric condition. Because health and reproduction are improving so rapidly in the ex situ panda population, it is a given that more animals will live longer, requiring more sophisticated veterinary management to ensure well-being for up to 25 years of age or beyond.
This chapter describes the authors' medical experiences with adult and aged giant pandas living in zoos, especially in the USA.