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The reproductive strategy of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca): infant growth and development and mother–infant relationships

Authors

  • Xiaojian Zhu,

    1. Department of Environmental Biology and Ecology, College of Life Science, Peking University, Beijing 100871, P.R. China
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  • Donald G. Lindburg,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Reproduction of Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112-0551, U.S.A.
      *All correspondence to: Donald G. Lindburg. E-mail: dlindburg@sandiegozoo.org
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  • Wenshi Pan,

    1. Department of Environmental Biology and Ecology, College of Life Science, Peking University, Beijing 100871, P.R. China
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  • Karin A. Forney,

    1. Centre for Reproduction of Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112-0551, U.S.A.
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  • Dajun Wang

    1. Department of Environmental Biology and Ecology, College of Life Science, Peking University, Beijing 100871, P.R. China
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*All correspondence to: Donald G. Lindburg. E-mail: dlindburg@sandiegozoo.org

Abstract

Reproductive activities of six giant panda females (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) living in the Qinling Mountains of China (Shaanxi Province) were recorded from 1989 into early 1995. Data on mating and birth dates, litter size, cub sex and den use were collected for three of the pandas. At this site, pregnant females migrated to lower elevations in advance of other pandas to seek dens for birthing. One dam was videotaped in the den with her cub from birth to the end of the denning phase at 94 days of age. This cub was repeatedly handled during the dam's absences to obtain data on development and weight. During the early part of the denning phase, the cub was maintained on the dam's body virtually continuously. Post-partum fasting for up to 3 weeks was noted. Dams invariably moved cubs to new dens three or four times during the birth season. By the time cubs left the den at about 3–4 months, they were fully furred and capable of surviving winter temperatures without further shelter. Reproductive parameters for the wild population fell within the range of values for captive pandas, based on information in the literature and in the giant panda studbook. The combined data on length of gestation, intervals between births, litter size and weight, infant development, and reproductive life span reveal a range of life-history variables that strongly resemble the Ursidae.

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