August 17, 2009

Giant Panda Faces Extinction

Conservation groups have worked tirelessly to save the beloved giant panda of China, which is facing the possibility of extinction within the next two to three generations as its life collides with rapid economic development.

The Global Times reported that the fragmentation of their habitats into increasingly small areas has confined the animals, making them unable to seek out mating partners, which has endangered their gene pool.

"If the panda cannot mate with those from other habitats, it may face extinction within two to three generation," said Fan Zhiyong, Beijing-based species program director for WWF. He urges immediate action.

With the pandas resorting to finding mates in their confined areas, they face an increased risk of inbreeding, which could compromise the panda's ability to fight disease and even lower its ability to reproduce, the paper said.

According to Fan, the highways have majorly cut up the panda's habitat and has kept them from moving freely.

Fan expressed the sense of defeat that many are feeling about the situation.

"We may have to give up building some infrastructure," he said. "I don't know the solution to this problem."

Approximately 1,590 pandas are currently living in the wild around China. They primarily found in southwestern Sichuan, northern Shaanxi and northwestern Gansu provinces. Earlier reports stated that only 180 of these giant pandas have been successfully bred in captivity.

While environmental issues play a huge role in the animal's decline, it is not the only problem conservationists are facing. The panda is famous for its low sex-drive, which has made it incredibly difficult to get them to reproduce and thus boost their numbers.

Breeders have gotten quite creative in trying to find a way to encourage the pandas to engage in sexual activity. They have even tried exposing them to "panda porn" videos of other pandas mating, and putting males through "sexercises" that are meant to strengthen their pelvic and leg muscles to  support the copulation process.

Though it may seem extreme, and even quite humorous, such measures just go to show how far conservationists are willing to go to save the panda.


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