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Baby Boom For China's Giant Pandas

Beijing (AFP) Jan 09, 2006
A record 21 pandas survived after being born using artificial insemination in China last year, state media said Monday as scientists hailed the program aimed at saving the endangered species.

Despite the early deaths of a few babies, 21 cubs survived after being conceived through breeding programs, the Xinhua news agency said, citing statistics released by the state forestry administration (SFA).

The birth and survival rate was attributed to Chinese scientists, who have developed techniques after years of research on how to keep China's most treasured animal and one of the world's most endangered species from dying out.

"They have acquired mature technologies and valuable experience after years of hard work," Na Chunfeng, an official with the SFA, was quoted as saying. Details were not given.

Artificial fertilization led to the birth of nine cubs in 2000, 12 in 2001, 10 in 2002 and 15 in 2003, according to official statistics. Figures were not given for 2004.

The technique has boosted the number of giant pandas from 1,114 before 2000 to the present 1,596, living in habitats covering more than 23,000 square kilometres (9,200 square miles), statistics show.

Of the total, there are 183 giant pandas kept in captivity, with nearly 100 of them in the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre in southwest China's Sichuan province.

There are another 24 pandas kept in nine zoos around the world, including the United States, Japan, Germany, Austria and Thailand.

Giant pandas show little interest in sex while in captivity, and artificial insemination is routinely used to increase the panda population.

Despite the success of artificial insemination, panda populations are still being threatened as local governments put development ahead of animal protection and their natural habitats are destroyed.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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"Bigfoot" Excitement Mounting In Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Jan 08, 2006
Excitement is mounting in Malaysia over claims of "Bigfoots" lurking in its southern jungles, with wildlife experts on the hunt for the mythical beast and a telephone hotline set up to report sightings.

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