Are pandas dangerous in the wild

Panda bears with good genetic material

Giant pandas are difficult to reproduce in captivity - this has always worried conservationists, as their numbers in the native forests of China are dangerously low due to habitat destruction. But sophisticated fertilization techniques have meanwhile also given birth to small panda babies in zoos.

To investigate how successful these breeding programs are, Fuwen Wei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and his colleagues took a closer look at the genetic makeup of 240 panda bears from four breeding programs in China.

And now there is good news, they write in the journal "Molecular Biology and Evolution": Little inbreeding and high genetic diversity have been found in the bears that have been bred.

Reintroduction possible

The entire captive population is genetically healthy, the researchers write. It is therefore not necessary to catch more wild panda bears - to throw even more new genes into the pot of the breeding programs. Because they are already full enough.

Always a big reason to be happy for conservationists: A new baby panda has been born

In addition, the authors conclude that it should be possible to reintroduce the rebred pandas in the future. In bred animals, a high level of genetic diversity is desirable so that no hereditary diseases prevail.

In the wild, a high level of genetic diversity enables animal populations to better adapt to changing environmental conditions. This means that there are more hereditary factors that could be beneficial for a new situation, and the likelihood that animals will survive increases. Overall, the animals are better prepared against extinction - due to diseases or climate change, for example. Even the best genes do not protect against poaching and habitat destruction.

A wobbly candidate

However, according to Wei and colleagues, one of the four offspring centers in Louguantai in Shaanxi Province will have to be careful in the future. According to the study, his risk of inbreeding is higher than at the other centers examined. The center should take more care when it comes to picking the right bears to mate.

The researchers examined four offspring centers, in Wolong, Chengdu, Louguantai and the zoo in Beijing. In these centers, 64 percent of all pandas live in captivity, the researchers write.