Panda "Porn" to Boost Mating Efforts at Thai Zoo

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For example, the animals are able to breed during only a few days each year, so a suitable male and female must be paired up at precisely the right time.

Once a panda is conceived—naturally or through artificial insemination—new problems arise.

Many young pandas die soon after birth. Newborn cubs weigh 3 to 5 ounces (85 to 142 grams)—just 1/900 of their mother's weight, according to the international conservation group WWF.

The babies are susceptible to pneumonia and other ailments and are totally dependent upon their mothers, which are often inexperienced as parents.

(Related news: "Baby Panda Crushed by Mother in China Zoo" [September 8, 2006].)

Despite the challenges, success rates have soared in recent years. According to Xinhua, China's state news agency, this year more pandas have already been born in captivity than in any other year on record.

China's Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in Sichuan Province has enjoyed the biggest baby boom so far—dozens of pandas born at the center have survived.

The efforts have boosted the country's stock of captive pandas to over 180 individuals. And each panda is important, experts say, as only 1,600 to 3,000 of the animals are believed to exist in the wild.

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