Qi Zai, the world's only captive brown giant panda, has succeeded in natural mating with a female panda for the first time, according to the Qinling research center of giant panda breeding in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
The male brown-and-white panda is 11 years old, the equivalent of a human in young adulthood. Qi Zai started receiving training in natural mating in 2018 and successfully finished the task on March 18 with a female panda named An An, said Zhao Pengpeng, senior veterinarian of the center.
However, Zhao pointed out that successful mating does not mean successful pregnancy, as panda keepers usually have no idea whether female pandas are actually pregnant up until they give birth.
Pandas typically mate with more than one partner. On March 17, An An also mated naturally with another male panda in the center.
"The pregnancy rate is higher for natural breeding than with artificial breeding," Zhao said, adding that giant pandas have low reproductivity, so the center adopts a combined breeding method of natural mating and artificial insemination.
Since last year, researchers have started adjusting nutrition, strengthening physical training and renovating breeding facilities for male pandas in the center. In addition, they monitor the reproductive hormones of female pandas in mating season to increase the pregnancy rate.