The Chengdu Panda Base has made substantial efforts towards scientific research and as a result it has obtained 8 national, 26 provincial and ministerial and 32 municipal scientific achievements. It has also successively published 18 monographs, including A Study on Breeding and Disease of the Giant Panda, Reproductive Physiology and Artificial Breeding of the Giant Panda and Giant Panda Ex Situ Conservation: Theory and Practice, etc., also released more than 400 theses in key domestic and international journals. It has been generally recognized at home and abroad as a research centre that has and yields the largest knowledge, understanding and ability to carry out captive giant panda conservation and scientific research. In particular, a number of symbolic achievements of different fields in various historical periods have been made in breeding and rearing, prevention and treatment of diseases and genetic management of giant panda, and more. Of which, “twin cub-rearing study”, and “DNA fingerprinting probes study and establishment of DNA extraction methods”, are known as the representative scientific achievements in giant panda conservation in the 20th century through the process from rescue and breeding, to genetic conservation and development. These achievements have solved several international unknowns and problems about giant panda conservation, and led technical development in captive giant panda conservation causes.
● The research center has won the Second Prize of National Technological Invention for the development of giant panda DNA fingerprinting probes and invention of DNA extraction methods. It is the first research institution to have synthesized the giant panda fingerprinting probe and invented the method to extract genome-wide DNA from pandas’ excrement and specimen.
● The research center has won the Second Prize of National Technological Progress for achievement in the research of twin cub-rearing of giant panda. This entails raising giant panda twins for the first time in history and increasing the survival rate of giant panda cub to 67% in 1990s from 34% prior to the 1990s.
● The research center has won the Third Prize of Sichuan Technological Progress in 2003 for achievement in the research of artificial insemination technology of captive giant pandas, for example increasing the reproduction rate of giant panda by 11.2%.
● The research center has won the Third Prize of Sichuan Technological Progress in 2004 for the achievements made in studying the early pregnancy diagnosis of giant panda, for example diagnosing the pre-implantation pregnancy of the giant panda and reducing the artificial insemination frequencies from 3.46 times to 1.46 times.
● The research center has won the Second Prize of Chengdu Technological Progress in 2005 for the isolation and identification of new microsatellite markers of giant pandas and establishment of genotype technology, such as acquiring 54 new microsatellite markers of giant panda and building a paternity testing technology system of giant panda, carrying out paternity tests for newborn pandas in China and abroad and correcting pedigree errors. Also, it was granted a patent in 2012 for “a kind of kit used for giant panda of paternity test”.
● The research center has won the Third Prize of Sichuan Technological Progress in 2009 for the study on the genetic structure of captive South China tigers. Establishing a paternity test technology system for the South China tiger, identifying the hybrid tigers and their descendants that have mingled with captive population and laid the foundation for the genetic population management of captive South China tigers.
● The research center has won the Second Prize of Chengdu Technological Progress in 2005 for the isolation and identification of new microsatellite markers of giant panda and establishment of genotype technology. For example, acquiring 54 new microsatellite markers of giant pandas and building a giant panda paternity testing technology system. As well carrying out paternity tests for newborn pandas at home and abroad and correcting pedigree errors. Also, it was granted with China’s invention patent in 2012 for “a kind of kit used for giant panda of paternity test”.
● The research center has won the Third Prize of Sichuan Technological Progress in 2009 for the study on the genetic structure of captive South China tiger, i.e. establishing a paternity testing technology system of South China tiger, identifying the hybrid tigers and their descendants mingled with captive population and laying the foundation for population genetic management of captive South China tigers.
● The research center has won the Second Prize of Sichuan Technological Progress in 2011 for achievement in the Research of Diagnosis and Prevention of Rotavirus Infection of Giant Panda initiated and completed by Chengdu Panda Base research personnel.
● The Sichuan Key Laboratory for the Conservation Biology on Endangered Wildlife has achieved good results in the cooperation among industries, universities and scientific research institutes. Its representative achievement projects include:
I. Research on Giant Panda Conversation Biology:
Remarkable achievements have been made in giant panda artificial rearing and breeding.. The establishment of the collection, cryopreservation and insemination technology of giant panda semen, which has overcome major mating and breeding difficulties of captive giant pandas. This important advancement has been a trailblazer for giant panda ex-situ conservation and increased the captive breeding population, and provided new methods to preserve the genetic resources of this species for the long-term. Moreover the creation of the artificial rearing technology of giant panda twins from the basis of a behavior study on their species has made great contributions to their conservation. For example the survival rate of cubs exceed 90% and a continuously increase the number of captive giant pandas. At present, there are a total of 106 giant pandas at the Chengdu Panda Base. In order to ensure that the captive population increases healthily healthy and avoids inbreeding, the research center has done in-depth research on giant panda conservation genetics. After completing the genome sequencing research, it created a giant panda microsatellite database, isolated and screened over 100 giant panda microsatellite markers, established giant panda paternity tests, genetic pedigree, population genetic management and genetic diversity assessment standardized methods, then applied them to the studies on captive and wild populations of giant panda, substantially improving the population quality of giant pandas in captivity. With high economic value and social ecological benefits, the successes achieved in giant panda breeding have created conditions for traveling, releasing, loan exhibition, diplomacy, donation, science popularization and ecological education of giant panda. In terms of wild giant panda conservation, the research center has implemented systematic researches on population numbers, current living situations, habitat quality and selection, major threats and conservation strategies for giant pandas in 26 nature reserves of Sichuan. Moreover the Chengdu Panda Base has assisted 15 of these reserves to upgrade to national and provincial level and receive a large quantity of investment in conservation from the government. Thereby assisting to create great contributions to constructing a network of giant panda nature reserves while effectively protecting other species.
II. Study on ex-situ conservation of forest musk deer:
Placed under first class state protection, forest musk deer (Mochus berezovskii) produce musk, which is an indispensable ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and is used in and as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic bolus, liushen pills, eight-jewel elixir and shuxiao jiuxin pills, and much more. Due to the high monetary value of natural musk, a large number of musk deer were poached (illegally hunted), resulting in drastically reducing their numbers and the corresponding depletion of musk resources. Therefore, artificial rearing of musk deer can not only meet the musk demand, but also protect the wild ungulates. With more than 50 years’ of artificial rearing, wild musk deer in China are still facing high mortality rate and limited or slow population growth. In recent years, the research center has intensively studied artificial rearing and breeding technology, disease occurrence rule and prevention and control technology, artificial auxiliary cub-rearing technology, musk secretion regularity and technical regulation, musk chemical fingerprint chromatography and quality control, etc. with captive musk deer as the objects as well as Dujiangyan and Miyaluo musk deer farm as the bases. Thanks to all these efforts, dramatic breakthroughs have been made regarding the artificial rearing of musk deer, the survival rate of baby musk deer exceeded 80%, disease has been effectively controlled and the captive population exceeds over 1,300, accounting for about 50% of the national total.
III. Conversation Biology Research Concerning Endangered Pheasants:
The research center has studied the living conditions and conservation strategies for the Sichuan pheasant species through cooperation with the World Pheasant Association (WPA). Substantial research work has been done especially for the conversation biology of two species of endangered pheasant, the Sichuan hill partridge and buff-throated partridge. Sichuan hill partridge is endemic to China but is endangered, found only in the central and southern Sichuan, and northeast Yunnan. This species is placed under first class state protection and is one of two endangered Chinese ground-feeding (galliforme) birds stated in Red Data Book of Endangered Species issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 2008. Its endangered status has caused widespread concern in China and globally. Due to the fore-mentioned situation, the Chengdu Panda Base researched its distribution range, habitat conditions, primary threats, monitored and estimated of wildlife quantity, and much more. The Panda Base also helped to establish and upgrade Laojunshan Nature Reserve in Pingshan, Yibin, to a national level. Moreover, for the endangered buff-throated partridge, (also endemic to China) the research center selected Yajiang Pamuling Mountain as a research base and made systematic studies concerning its growth and development, breeding habits, habitat selection and main threats, and much more. As well several SCI theses were published, greatly enriching the biology information of the bird.
IV. Study on Conversation Genetics of the South China Tiger:
It is widely believed that the South China tiger has gone extinct in the wild, yet there are a few individuals dispersed around major zoos in China. The research center has collected blood, hair and fecal samples from 85 of them, extracted DNA, analyzed their complete mitochondrial sequence, and found a highly conserved mitochondrial pseudogene. Also created a non-invasive sampling method for the South China tiger and studied the genetic structure with mitochondrial and microsatellite markers. Upon the completion of this work, the research center found that most of the existing captive South China tigers are hybrids of a combination of South China tigers with other tiger subspecies, representing serious introgression (introduction of genes from one species into the gene pool of another species), and only 13 individuals are purebred South China tigers. Thus, special attention shall be paid to increasing conversation practices. Furthermore, we have published quite a few SCI papers.
V. Giant Panda Genome Research:
With the development of new generation sequencing technology, the Laboratory has cooperated with the Beijing Genomics Institute (Shenzhen) to carry out giant panda genome sequencing. This project is a first internationally to determine the genetic information to protect endangered species. The project is led by China’s scientific research institutions and technical personnel, participated by foreign experts, implemented with new generation sequencing technology and completely funded by domestic corporations. It demonstrates the progress made our progresses in genome sequencing technology and dedication by domestic well-known corporations to the advancement of scientific research and conservation of endangered animals. A female giant panda called Jing Jing (pedigree No.: 598, date of birth: August 30, 2005) from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is the active panda participant in the project. The genome size of a giant panda is about 3Gb (containing 20,000 to 30,000 genes), which is roughly equal to that of human beings. The information provided by a “giant panda genome draft” will have a profound impact on the conservation and research of giant panda and lay the foundation for research on multiple disciplines including; physiology, immunity, reproduction, behavior, nutrition, development, ecology and evolution, and much more. On this platform, experts in different fields may carry out further in-depth studies at the molecular level, to make new breakthroughs and increase conservation for endangered species. The research results were published in Nature (“The sequence and de novo assembly of the giant panda genome”, Nature, 2010, 463:311-317) an important international academic journal, have aroused widespread concern and obtained recognition from the society and educational circles, also played an important role in enhancing image of the Chengdu Panda Base and its laboratory.