A healthy panda cub was born Wednesday at a zoo in northern Thailand after the mother, an 8-year-old-female, was artificially inseminated by staff in February.
Chiang Mai Zoo’s director Thanapath Pongamorn said there were no signs that mom Lin Hui was pregnant.
“She’s been anxious since yesterday. She did not want to get close to caretakers or any other people, but we didn’t know what the problem was,” Thanapath said.
Thailand’s famously celibate giant pandas finally produced the cub after failed attempts to get them to mate including using pornography and low-carb diets.
The cub weighed an estimated eight ounces, and was born just three months after the mother was impregnated with semen from nine-year-old partner Chuang Chuang.
The pandas showed no interest in reproducing the traditional way since they both arrived on a 10-year loan from China in 2003.
“This panda cub is a success for artificial insemination and a success for panda breeding in Thailand,” Thanapath said.
He said Lin Hui was being very protective of her cub and had not allowed any officials to get close. However, they are monitoring her behavior and said she was “raising her cub well.”
Zoo officials said they could not examine the newborn cub closely enough to determine its gender because it would get scared and was too vulnerable to disease, but that they would check when it was a week old.
Lin Hui was first artificially inseminated in April 2007 but failed to become pregnant.
In January of this year, the zoo tried a different approach when unusually cold weather in the northern city prompted an unusually frisky response from Lin Hui.
Authorities moved the pandas from their climate-controlled environment in the hope of provoking a steamy response during the pandas’ mating season but it failed.
The cub officially belongs to China, but Thailand will raise it for about 24 months, Thanapath said.
Giant pandas are among the world’s most endangered animals due partly to their low sex drives.
Nearly 1,600 pandas are believed to survive in the wild in China and about 180 are being raised in captivity in zoos worldwide.