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How Do Pandas Raise Their Offspring?

The breeding rate of pandas is relatively low. A mother usually needs one and a half to two years to take care of her cubs. Pandas do not reproduce after labor. As a result, pandas usually give birth every other year. Not only pandas, but many other animals have the same breeding patterns, such as elephants and tigers.

This particular year and a half is critical in the life of pandas. Panda cubs can learn a lot from their mothers, including how to find food and water, how to avoid predators, fight diseases, how to meet their partners and mate, and how to live the life as a panda.

This is almost the only time in their life to coexist with another panda for a long time, and it is almost the only learning opportunity for them too.

Pandas have a gestation period of 83 to 200 days, and even 324 days in rare cases. Babies are usually born from July to September. The places where baby pandas are born are usually a hidden tree hole, a natural cave with branches and hay that are carefully prepared by the panda mother.

The most special point about panda breeding is that their newborn babies are usually quite immature at birth. The birth weight is only 0.1% of its mother’s weight, the average weight is only about 120 grams, the lightest is 51 grams, whilst the heaviest is 225 grams.

The skin of a newborn panda is pink with sparse, white hair. In the few weeks after its birth, the panda mother always holds the cub in her arms, make it feel warm and protect it. They’re almost never separate. When the panda mother moves around, she carries the cub with her mouth. Both pandas in captivity or in the wild do the same.

During the breeding period of pandas, the cries of cubs are a very important communication tool to bond with their mothers. When the cubs need milk from the mother, need a bowel movement, or when it’s too hot or cold, they send this information to the mother through different ways of crying.

Since a newborn panda does not yet have the ability to urinate or defecate, the mother uses her tongue to lick the perineum of the newborn, in order to stimulate their bowel movements.

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for panda cubs, especially colostrum. In addition to essential nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins and various enzymes, it also contains a large number of artificially unrecognizable antibodies which help the cub fight against all kinds of diseases. It also contributes to the development of the cub’s immune system.

In the wild, if twins are born (under captivity, the proportion of twins born by pandas is nearly 50%), panda mothers usually ignore or refuse to raise the weaker one, which guarantees at least the survival of one of them.

In captivity, we apply an artificial breeding method and the squatting technique, to give both cubs the opportunity to breastfeed and learn behavioral skills from their mother. We try our utmost best to ensure that all cubs can survive.  

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