A panda cub weighing 216 grams is born on July 31, 2017 at the Giant Panda Research Base in Sichuan province.[Photo: cnr.cn]
Cao Cao, a captive panda at the Wolong Panda Research Base in Sichuan province, has become the first to successfully mate with a male from the wild.
The 15-year-old, who had given birth to 5 cubs previously, was put out into the wild with a tracking collar on March 1, 2017. After being brought back to the facility, researchers were able to review data from her tracking collar which has found that she successfully mated with a male giant panda on March 23, 2017.
Cao Cao gave birth on July 31 to a cub weighing approximately 216 grams. The normal weight of an average panda cub at birth is around 150 grams.
The successful birth is part of a broader program to create more genetic diversity among the captive giant panda population.
There are currently 471 captive giant pandas around the world, with around 400 of them at the Giant Panda Research Base in Sichuan. To increase the genetic biodiversity of the species in captivity, the research center has begun allowing breeding females to be put back into the wild for a time, with the hope of successful breeding with the estimated 900 males still roaming among the mountains in Sichuan.
Zhang Hemin, deputy managing director of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, says they're excited by the new birth, saying it's a sign that they may eventually be able to help rejuvenate the wild panda population.