Just How Many Pandas Are There, Anyway? PDF Print E-mail
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Just How Many Pandas Are There, Anyway?
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Although I try to keep track of just how many pandas there are in captivity, and how many cubs are born each year, it can definitely be confusing to keep track.  Just when you think you have it figured out, some new information comes along that makes it even more confusing.  Because much of the information comes from the Chinese breeding centers and the foreign media, sometimes it seems that there's something "lost in translation."
According to an article just published in Xinhua,
Thirty one giant pandas were born in captivity in China this year, and 25 survived, down from last year's figures...Of the 25 alive and well this year, 16 are living at the China Giant Panda Research Center in Wolong...and eight live at a research and breeding base in Chengdu....
So according to this article, there are 25 live cubs, while six didn't make it. It's not clear whether the 25 includes the cubs born in Vienna and San Diego, since it indicates "born in captivity in China."  Then of the 25, the total of the cubs born at Wolong and Chengdu is 24.  Does this mean that there was a cub born in China outside of Chengdu and Wolong?  If so, there has been no news about it.
However, according to a newsletter released in early November by Pandas International, there have been 25 giant panda births in captivity in 15 deliveries so far this year, including nine sets of twins, and 22 have survived.  The last birth, a set of twins, was September 14 at Wolong.  The totals from the newsletter include the cubs born in Vienna (twins, of which one survived and one did not) and San Diego (a single birth).  
In order to reconcile the two, there would have to have been at least six births between September 14 and the present (three which survived, to equal 25 live cubs; and three which didn't make it, to equal the six deaths referenced.)  There would have to have been even more if the Xinhua article's numbers did not include the Vienna and San Diego cubs.  Considering that most pandas are born in late July and August, that would be an unusually high number of late cubs.  The Pandas International newsletter does say that its totals are not final, so perhaps it was not given all of the information about Chinese births, but it's still pretty confusing!
The Xinhua article also references the number of pandas currently in captivity, which is even more confusing, especially if, like me, you have the goal of seeing as many pandas in captivity as possible, or even if you just want to keep track.

China now has 239 giant pandas in captivity, including 128 in Wolong and 67 in Chengdu. Around 1,590 are thought to be living in the wild in China.  Under Sino-foreign cooperation schemes, 27 giant pandas live outside the country, including 12 in the United States, eight in Japan, two in Thailand, three in Austria and two in Spain. Of the 27, 18 were provided by China, and nine were bred abroad - four in the United States, another four in Japan and one in Austria.  China sent 24 giant pandas to nine countries as gifts between 1957 and 1982 and five of their offspring are still alive.

Let's start by accounting for the 27 outside China.  That number is accurate (but excludes all those who were gifts, and not part of loan agreements:  three in Mexico City, one in Berlin, and one at the Ueno Zoo in Japan.)  In the U.S., we have twelve after Mei Sheng's departure:  Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Tai Shan in Washington; Yang Yang, Lun Lun and Mei Lan in Atlanta; Le Le and Ya Ya in Memphis, and Bai Yun, Gao Gao, Su Lin, and the new cub in San Diego.  There are six at Adventure World, and two at the zoo in Kobe, Japan.  Yang Yang, Long Hui, and the new cub Fu Long are in Vienna, while Bing Xing and Hua Zui Ba are now in Madrid.  The two in Thailand are Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui.  So far, so good, but it's about to get more confusing.
When adding up the Wolong and Chengdu pandas, you get 195.  Since the article says China has 239 pandas in captivity, does that include the 32 outside China (27 loaned and 5 gifted)?  If so, the total is 227, which would mean that China has 12 in zoos outside of the breeding centers.  We know there are four in Hong Kong, which is considered part of China, some in the Beijing Zoo, and occasionally we hear of other zoos in China with pandas, such as the Guilin City Zoo where Mei Mei, the world's oldest panda, was housed when she died in 2005.  (See World's Oldest Panda Dies)
So if you're wondering just how close we are to the magic number of 300, which will give us "a self-sustaining captive population, and maintain 90 percent of known giant panda genetic variation for a century," (See National Geographic article) the answer is still pretty fuzzy -- just like the panda cubs we're trying to count.


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1. 01-03-2008 13:46
i luvvvvvvvvvv pandas ask any one who knows me :)
2. 02-04-2008 18:19
I love pandas how come they have to be going extinct? :cry
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3. 03-05-2008 16:32
i love pandas too but how many are in zoos? i know that there 1,600 in the wild .shame on you panda poachers. :cry :) ;) :p :eek :sigh :? null
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