Panda Procreation

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Zoo InternQuest is a career exploration program for high school students. For more information see the Zoo InternQuest Journals. For more photos see the Zoo InternQuest Photo Journal.

The Frozen Zoo is one resource that the San Diego Zoo uses for conserva!!tvbuihjnjmkolption efforts. It is located at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. The Frozen Zoo is a room filled with big silver freezers that hold millions of different cells from various species and subspecies of animals. By freezing cells, like reproductive cells, the Zoo has access to many different genes that, if necessary, can help an endangered species increase in number and prevent bottleneck effects in populations of animals. Bottlenecking is a genetic event in which a rapid reduction of genetic variety occurs. This effect may result in inbreeding in a population.

The Zoo is currently using these cells for valuable research through various techniques including flow cytometry. Flow cytometry is just one process the Institute uses in order to determine what cells are preserved after being in the Frozen Zoo. This process helps find viable and active sperm. This sperm can eventually, if needed, be used in artificial insemination.

Artificial insemination is not commonly used at the Zoo, but has been used under certain circumstances. One of these situations was with the giant panda. When the first two pandas from China came to the San Diego Zoo, Bai Yun (a young female born in a panda conservation center in China) and Shi Shi (an adult male found injured in the wild with wounds too great to be re-released) were not exactly a match made in heaven. The couple had one offspring (the first baby panda born in the western hemisphere) at the San Diego Zoo. Hua Mei was this baby, a female, born through the process of artificial insemination. Hua Mei is now the mother of six more giant pandas. Bai Yun continues to have more children, including her fifth cub born this last August. By using the modern scientific techniques of artificial insemination, the San Diego Zoo has contributed to the conservation of this ancient and beloved species and many others.

Sarrah, Conservation Team