Born in captivity, a baby panda in Malaysia defies the odds.
By Deborah Tobin
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – November 15, 2015
A baby giant panda is making her public debut at Zoo Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
The cub was born in August to a pair of pandas loaned to Malaysia by the Chinese government. Visitors to the zoo will be able to see the unnamed cub for just one hour a day until veterinarians confirm that she has fully bonded with her mother.
The panda parents are Liang Liang and Xing Xing. They arrived in Malaysia in May 2014 from Chengdu, China, as part of a celebration of 40 years of diplomatic ties between China and Malaysia.
The pair surprised the world panda conservation community by producing a cub only 13 months after arriving at the zoo.
According to veterinarian Dr. Mat Naim Ramli, it can take many years for pandas to breed in captivity, and successful breeding is usually the result of artificial insemination.
“We have set a world record for having our pandas reproducing within a short period of time through natural breeding outside of China,” said Ramli, who is the Malaysian Zoological Society Giant Panda Conservation Centre and veterinary services director.
Chet Chin, a volunteer at Zoo Negara, previously volunteered at a panda complex in China. Her experience in both China and Malaysia allows her to help the zoo promote panda conservation.
“The Chinese government always sends unrelated male-female pairs on loans to other zoos with the hope that they will breed,” said Chin. “It is also the aim of the loan program to expose more people to the pandas and spread the word about the problems surrounding their endangered status.”
One visitor to the panda complex was Marcel McKinley. He is a zookeeper with the London Zoo, and visiting zoos is an important part of his global travel.
“It’s really, really hard to breed pandas in captivity,” said McKinley. “Liang Liang gave birth on exhibit in front of a lot of people; everybody was shocked. Zoo officials thought she was displaying a giant panda behaviour called pseudo-pregnancy, where the mother acts as though she is pregnant, but is not.”
Najwa Ahmad, a student at a university in Kuala Lumpur, visited the panda complex with a group of friends.
“It’s amazing to see pandas for the first time,” she said. “I’m very proud that Malaysia was able to produce a baby panda so quickly.”
According to a 2014 World Wildlife Fund census, there are 1,864 pandas living in the wild in China. This number has risen from around 1,000 in the late 1970s. Giant panda numbers have grown by 17 per cent in the past 10 years.
About 300 giant pandas live in captivity in China, and 51 live in 18 zoos in 13 countries outside of China.