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11 - The science of behavioural management: creating biologically relevant living environments in captivity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2009

Ronald R. Swaisgood
Affiliation:
Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, San Diego Zoo, Zoological Society of San Diego
Guiquan Zhang
Affiliation:
China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda
Xiaoping Zhou
Affiliation:
China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
Hemin Zhang
Affiliation:
China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
David E. Wildt
Affiliation:
Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington DC
Anju Zhang
Affiliation:
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Hemin Zhang
Affiliation:
Wildlife Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas
Donald L. Janssen
Affiliation:
Zoological Society of San Diego
Susie Ellis
Affiliation:
Conservation Breeding Specialist Group
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

As for many highly specialised carnivores, breeding giant pandas in captivity has had sporadic gains and setbacks over its 40-year history (see Chapters 1 and 19). Although many husbandry issues have been addressed successfully, we are still learning about behaviour and its relevance to ex situ management. This chapter updates the state of captive breeding at the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in the Wolong Nature Reserve (hereafter referred to as the Wolong Centre). We also provide details of our scientifically guided husbandry and management strategies that are contributing to a rapidly growing database of scholarly knowledge as well as to recent improvements in reproductive success.

Even with our limited knowledge about giant pandas in nature, it appears that, in the presence of plentiful natural resources and the absence of human disturbance, giant pandas mate, become pregnant and rear offspring without problem. Thus, reproduction is not a limiting factor to wild population viability (Lu et al., 2000). Because this is not the case for the ex situ population, we can surmise that reproductive problems are rooted in the captive environment – a place that fails to fully meet the needs of at least some individuals. In principle, and with a proper understanding of species-salient factors, it should be possible to create captive environments that result in, or even surpass, reproductive rates occurring in the wild. Targets for improvement include health, nutrition, husbandry and behavioural management, this chapter concentrating on the latter two factors.

Type
Chapter
Information
Giant Pandas
Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
, pp. 274 - 298
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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