Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management


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The giant panda biomedical survey: how it began and the value of people working together across cultures and disciplines 3. Factors limiting reproductive success in the giant panda as revealed by a biomedical survey 4. Significant medical issues and biological reference values for giant pandas from the biomedical survey 5.

Giant Pandas

Life histories and behavioural traits as predictors of breeding status 6. Nutrition and dietary husbandry 7. Male reproductive biology in giant pandas in breeding programmes in China 8. Endocrinology of the giant panda and application of hormone technology to species management 9.

Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management

The value and significance of vaginal cytology Parentage assessment among captive giant pandas in China The science of behavioural management: creating biologically relevant living environments in captivity Data collection started on day six after parturition, at the point when both cubs could be observed, and continued to day 28, including the complete third day 15—21 and fourth day 22—28 week after parturition. To investigate behavioural changes over time, the eighth day 50—56 and 12 th day 78—84 week were analysed.

Video data of twin rearing comprised h of video footage which were compared with behavioural data from the same female collected in the same manner in the third, fourth, eighth and 12 th week postpartum of single cubs, reared in and As the dam usually fed outside the den, except from few occasions when she brought bamboo branches into the den after a feeding bout, feeding was not statistically analysed. We compared percentages of respective behaviours interaction, resting, nursing, out of den displayed by the female in week three, four, eight or 12 during the cub rearing periods in , and using Generalized Linear Mixed Models GLMMs.

The GLMMs allow repeated measurements per day and week to be fitted in the model as random variables. The percentages of respective behaviours of one particular week 3, 4, 8 or 12 were entered as dependent variables, with the rearing period , and as predictor variable.

Giant pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management

We entered the identities of rearing period days of respective week as nested random variables. GLMMs were additionally used to calculate differences in exposure time between twins and singletons. Percentages of either not-, partially or fully exposed during week 3, 4, 8 or 12 were entered as dependent variable with cubs , , FF and FB as predictor variable. We entered the identities of cubs days of respective week as nested random variables.

We also used GLMMs to compare repositioning events performed by the female to move the twin cubs. The percentages of paw and mouth repositioning per day for week two, three, four, eight or 12 were entered as dependent variable, with repositioning mode paw and mouth as predictor variable. We entered the identities of repositioning mode days of respective week as nested random variable. The twin cubs were born on August 7 th , in the off-exhibit denning box.

The mother protected the cubs from the environment with her arms or by sitting in a curled position. At first only one cub was discovered. The twins were observed simultaneously for the first time on day 6 postpartum. From the 12 th day, both cubs were regularly visible.

The mother first left the den on the eighth day postpartum, but early bouts of absence were brief. Her first extended bout outside the den occurred on the 19 th day postpartum lasting 23 minutes. The female rested in the den The female had two typical resting postures, a curled sitting posture with her head resting on the ground in front of her or on her hind legs and a lying posture where one whole side of her body rested on the ground. When lying on the side she often embraced her hind legs with the forepaws. On average the female spent Interactions decreased to The interactions mainly consisted of grooming the cubs and repositioning herself or the cubs.

When the female returned to the den during the first 18 days postpartum she mainly picked up the cubs from the ground using her mouth and when using her paw the female often used her muzzle to stabilize the cub in the paw. As soon as the female started to leave the den more regularly and had to pick up the cubs more often, she used both her mouth and her paws equally Fig 2b. Licking the cubs, repositioning the cubs or picking them up varied daily, but no tendency to an individual cub could be detected.

Moreover the twins spent the same time suckling and no difference in frequency and duration between the cubs was observed S2 Data. In the first two weeks the dam usually lay on her side or sat upright in a curled position, holding the cubs with the arms to the belly or chest the so called hand-hold position. The female picked up the cubs from the ground as soon as possible in week three and four, but allowed the cubs to be in contact with the ground for longer periods of time in week eight and Social distance measured as percentage of 1-minute scan intervals per 24 h.

The mother did not leave the den until the eighth day postpartum with her first singleton, as soon as the fourth day with her second and on the eighth day with the twins. Her time spent outside the den was similarly limited in all rearing periods throughout the third week after parturition Table 2. Whereas short bouts of feeding were already observed from the 10 th day postpartum in and the eighth day in , it was not until the 17 th day after the twin birth the female started feeding in In week eight of twin rearing resting times were higher than rest periods in and similar to rest periods in , whereas in week 12 no differences were observed between resting times in vs.

YANG YANG spent more time interacting with the twins than with the single cubs raised in and Fig 4b in all analysed weeks and mother and twin interactions declined continuously over the first 12 weeks Table 2. In her active time the female spent twice as much time suckling the twins compared to singletons in the first month after parturition GLMM week 3: pairwise comparison vs.


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Nursing times of twins remained higher compared to singleton nursing in during the entire observation period. In week eight the mother spent similar times nursing the cub raised in compared to twins, while in week 12 the twins were nursed more Fig 5.

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Already in the first days after parturition the dam protected the twins from the environment by covering them with her arms, paws or body just as observed in previous years with singletons. Behaviours are reported in average percent of time per day during week 3, 4, 8 and 12 after parturition. Particularly during the first month after parturition of the twins we observed distinct differences in the behaviour of the mother compared to singleton rearing.

The female rested less, interacted more and spent more time lactating the twin cubs. Lactating twins required nearly twice as much time as nursing singletons, which of course sounds reasonable. However, lactation is considered the most energetically demanding component of maternal care [ 37 , 38 ] and the female should allocate her resources conservatively to ensure her own survival.

The constraints imposed by an exclusive bamboo diet are typically quoted as central factor in the reproductive strategy of giant pandas. Large mammals like bears usually use stored nutrients for milk production, which allow them to give birth and lactate at sites and times independent from food resources [ 39 ].

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Considering the additional time per day necessary to feed two juveniles, less resting time remained for the female, as at this stage even short discontinuities in care of the cubs could jeopardize them [ 2 ]. Maternal investment also included mother-infant interactions with the twins comprising of grooming, picking them up and repositioning the cubs which also required more time than during singleton rearing.

Only giant pandas, and to some extend sun bears Helarctos malayanus and spectacled bears Ursus ornatus show a high level of maternal care [ 18 , 19 , 26 , 40 ]. Most northern bear species demonstrate a rather passive maternal behaviour [ 11 , 41 ]. A study on Japanese black bears Ursus thibetanus japonicus found no clear difference in the overall maternal investment for a single cub and twin cubs [ 42 ]. Litter size and cub survival of other ursids are affected by differing factors.


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  • Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management!
  • Polar bear cub survival is mainly influenced by maternal mass and cub mass, but litter size is unimportant [ 43 ]. In brown bears Ursus arctos females may abandon single cub litters to increase overall fitness in the following breeding season [ 44 ].

    It thereby remains difficult to draw across species comparisons. Nevertheless, our observations oppose the assumption that the altricial condition of the neonate makes it impossible for the female to provide both neonates with the same level of care [ 2 , 15 ]. The current case-study demonstrates, if only exceptionally, that it is possible for a giant panda female to raise twins entirely on her own and provide similar care for each twin.

    Subsequently we propose several factors which might have made this remarkable behaviour of the female possible. First, we suggest that a careful protection of the female against all stressors during the early post-partum period is crucial. Providing an environment enabling a close mother-infant contact may be extremely important in insuring constant maternal care.

    Our results demonstrate that during the first month the female is almost constantly in full contact or at least body contact while the cubs are on her side on the ground and spends at least eight days continuously in the denning box. This behaviour emphasized the importance of denning areas, a shielded environment out of public view.

    Moreover a natural breeding environment equipped with an off-exhibit breeding room, or off-exhibit denning-box can provide a protected habitat. Abandonment of cubs or whole litters in other bear species is often related to human disturbance [ 45 — 47 ]. Even though captive giant pandas are used to noise and presence of humans, comprising daily husbandry routine and direct interactions during training, enclosure design and regular interference likely have negative effects on maternal behaviour. Thereby, the Vienna Zoo practices a hands-off approach in managing the giant pandas.

    Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
    Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
    Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
    Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
    Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
    Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
    Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management Giant Pandas: Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management

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