Zookeepers at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington D.C. were overjoyed when a female giant panda gave birth to her second cub.
But a week later, the cub died unexpectedly. Mei Xiang, the mother, yelped in distress, alerting zookeepers that something had gone terribly wrong.
The loss was also disheartening due to the exhaustive, five-year effort to impregnate the female panda since her first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005.
Panda breeding is very tricky. The animals have a short 36-hour window every year to get pregnant, and the process is extremely complicated.
The NewsHour spoke with Pierre Comizzoli, a reproductive physiologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Mei Xiang's "personal gynecologist," about the challenges of breeding pandas in captivity.
"The female has a short window of opportunity to conceive once a year... If you miss that window then you're going to have to wait for one more year." - Pierre Comizzoli, reproductive physiologist.
1. What is a captive-breeding program?
2. What are the goals of this type of program?
1. Why is giant panda reproduction so challenging?
2. Do you think it's easier for animals to reproduce in the wild? Why or why not?
3. Do you think captive breeding, or breeding in a controlled environment, saves endangered species? Discuss.
4. What are the arguments against captive breeding programs?
Lesson Plan: Not Just Birds and Bees:
Helping Nature Along: Breeding Giant Pandas: