The foundation of any managed breeding programme for animals living in captivity is a studbook. This is the chronological listing of animals in the historical captive population detailing birth and death dates, gender, parentage, locations, transfers and local identification numbers (Glatston, 1986). Analyses of these data provide critical information on past trends in population size, age-specific reproductive and survival rates, age structure, numbers of founders, degree of inbreeding, loss of genetic diversity and other measures useful for evaluating temporal changes in a captive population. This information then becomes the basis for making management recommendations to enhance the demographic and genetic security of the captive population (Ballou & Foose, 1996). Demographic security is needed to ensure that an adequate number of breeding-aged animals are available to reproduce at the rates needed to grow or maintain the population at its desired size. Genetic diversity is required for the population to remain healthy and to adapt to changing environments (i.e. experience natural selection).
The 2001 International Studbook for the Giant Panda contains detailed life history information on 542 giant pandas that have lived in zoos around the world (Xie & Gipps, 2001). The first entry, giant panda Studbook (SB) Number 1, is Su Lin, a wild-caught female who arrived at Brookfield Zoo on 2 February 1937 (see Chapter 1). A quick scan of the studbook leaves one with the impression that the captive population's dynamics are dominated by entry and subsequent death of wild-caught animals without sustainable reproduction.