14 Baby Pandas in Crib: Why Breed Them?

What’s better than one baby panda? Fourteen, apparently—the Web’s cuteness quotient has just skyrocketed with pictures of a crib full of baby pandas at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base in southwestern China.

The cubs, born between July and September of this year, are being raised in two delivery rooms at the facility, the BBC reported.

giant panda babies picture
Breeders care for giant panda cubs at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China on September 23. Photograph from China Daily/Reuters

Possibly as few as 1,600 giant pandas still roam the mountainous forests of central China, and more than 300 live in captivity in various facilities around the globe—most of them in China.

Breeding pandas can be difficult, although advances in veterinary technology have allowed scientists to better understand panda biology and use practices such as artificial insemination, Marc Brody, the Wolong Nature Reserve’s senior advisor for conservation and sustainable development, said in August. (Read our primer on the challenges of breeding pandas.)

The goal of most captive-breeding programs is to eventually reintroduce the animals back into China’s bamboo forests, Brody said. Although the pandas’ range is mostly preserved, much of it is still fragmented so that there are only a few large, continuous tracts where the animals can roam freely.

So far, scientists have attempted two reintroductions of captive-bred pandas into Sichuan Province: Xiang Xiang, who died in 2007 after being beaten up by wild resident males in Wolong, and Tao Tao, who’s been living in the Liziping Nature Reserve since 2012. Pandas that live in captive-breeding facilities outside China are on loan, and their offspring are returned to China.

Ultimately, said Wolong’s Brody, “captive breeding can only take us so far, and its greatest contribution isn’t the birth of a single panda but the arousal of interest and support for panda conservation at large.”

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Christine Dell'Amore, environment writer/editor for National Geographic News, has reported from six continents, including Antarctica. She has also written for Smithsonian magazine and the Washington Post. Christine holds a masters degree in journalism with a specialty in environmental reporting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her book, South Pole, was published in 2012.

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