While staff at Edinburgh Zoo are closely monitoring Tian Tian, who will shortly become the mother of the first captive panda born in the UK, the arrival of a new born is being celebrated at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC.
Why so much excitement? Because the birth of those small pink captive babies could be at the origin of the renewal of their species; there are less than 2,500 adults remaining in the world.
The new Panda cubs are the promise of great expectations and the key to the survival of the endangered species.
Pandas have been dying in great numbers for years now, because of their reproductive difficulties. Luckily, breeding centres in China recently came up with new breakthroughs in research, leading to a breeding boom in recent years.
The magic of genetic matchmaking and artificial insemination have led to the births of more than 350 pandas in breeding centres worldwide.
Yet, conservationists are now questioning what the future holds for these captive pandas.
Heather Sohl, chief adviser for special species at WWF-UK said «Pandas have lived on our planet for about three million years and the big threat is not really an evolutionary one, it’s the fact that their habitat is being destroyed and fragmented».
The next step is now to reintroduce the species in a restored habitat. Unfortunately, the first panda reintroduced in 2006 was found dead after less than a year of living in the wild. Let’s hope that the new panda Tao Tao released into Lipziping Nature Reserve 2 years ago will be able to spend his whole life in his new habitat.