The International Symposium on Giant Panda Conservation, sponsored by the State Forestry Administration and undertaken by the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, took place in Chengdu from November 7 to 12, 2013. Qin Bai, special correspondent for World Chinese Weekly, interviewed the organizing committee of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

It’s only been three months since the conference secretary sent out the first notice announcing to the opening day of the conference on November 7. Might we say that giant pandas are endowed with magic powers or that the world’s panda experts are just simply enthusiastic about this subject. As we know it only took three months to prepare for this international conference.

This high-level international event for global giant panda conservation is the only one that has been held in China since Conservation Priorities for the New Millennium was held in San Diego in 2000. It goes without saying that the giant panda is captivating and attracts the attention of the masses. Once the call went out, giant panda experts answered immediately East met West in Chengdu, laying the foundation for a successful conference.

The Chinese government at all levels, the State Forestry Administration (SFA), the Forestry Department of Sichuan Province (FDSP),the Chengdu Forestry and Landscape Bureau (CFLB), the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), and the Chinese Association of zoological Gardens (CAZG) all gave us full support in hosting this historic conference. It was at the end of July that the details of the conference were finalized. In the following three months, the panda base made meticulous preparations with utmost sincerity and commitment for the event. In order to ensure a smoothly run conference, a special committee was organized immediately .The committee worked out a feasible plan, allocated specific tasks, reviewed status of appointments gave timely suggestions, and took follow up actions. Through timely and efficient communication via network and international calls, the secretariat apprised each invited guest about the conference details so they had time to submit high quality and pertinent reports. The conference logistics were carefully arranged. Invitations, collection and translation of presentations, typesetting for publications,venue decoration, qualified interpreters, airport pickups, advertising,
media coverage, and other logistical concerns required a lot of planning and coordination.

Q: The size of the conference was quite large with many participants.Could you please comment on this as well as media involvement?
A: The conference brought in approximately 280 delegates from a total of 17 zoos in 12 countries and regions. China’s giant panda conservation agencies, competent authorities, embassies and consulates,NGOs, giant panda experts from the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG), the China Wildlife Conservation Association(CWCA), the State Forestry Association for the People’s Republic of China (SFA), the Chinese Academy of Science] and giant panda protection organizations from Sichuan,Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces were all included. Domestic mainstream media were invited to report on the event. The leader of the State Forestry Administration gave an exclusive interview to a CCTV journalist discussing the 4th Giant Panda Census,the habitats and distribution of giant pandas in the wild, and the government policies for wildlife conservation. Several state media outlets
interviewed delegates from giant panda holding institutions in Japan,the USA, and France. These institutions have established long-term giant panda research partnerships with China, attracting a great deal of attention by the international community and further expanding the influence and reputation of giant panda conservation in China. Xinhua’s Net,People’s Net,China News, Sina,Net East, as well as provincial and municipal mainstream media like Sichuan Daily, Chengdu Daily, and Chengdu Evening News also gave ample coverage.

Q: Could you please list some of the scientists and a few well-known zoos and giant panda research institution that participated the conference?
A: Experts from Zoo Atlanta, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, Memphis zoo, ZooParc de Beauval of France, Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, Adelaide Zoo in Australia, Hong Kong Ocean Park, Seac Pai Van Park in Macao, Pairi Daiza Zoo in Belgium, Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark,Adventure World in Shirahama, Wakayama, Japan, Tokyo Zoo, Japan and Kobe Oji Zoo all took part. Many participants from other groups and organizations from around the globe also took part. Researchers and representatives from related Chinese and worldwide institutions,including the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), the Chinese Academy of Science, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) participated in the conference. Dr. Kathy Traylor-Holze, Senior Program Officer David E. Wildt, PhD, Senior Scientist and Chairman of the Department of Reproductive Sciences at Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park also attended the meeting.

Q:This conference is said to be an international event for global giant panda conservation.I’m interested in how you would rote the overall quality of presentations and your impression of the conference as a whole.
A: The conference reviewed the progress of giant panda conservation and research we have made in the past 30 years. This covered a wide range of subjects in depth and looked forward to an envisioned future. This undertaking brought 35 scholars and experts h:ore home and abroad to make presentations regarding thQ:r observations and research into reproduction,genetics, field ethology, veterinary sciences,ecology,conservation education, and conservation management. The symposium displayed the vibrant and blossoming application of science to giant panda conservation. There remains much to do to ensue the conservation of the giant panda and its habitat. Faced with severe challenges, attendees put forward six proposals. First, the core idea of developing a self-sustaining population to enhance reproduction and breeding of giant pandas arose. Second, an emphasis on research of infectious disease prevention and control and infrastructure construction surfaced as an integral part of the plan. The epidemic monitoring system should be strengthened through coordination between multifunctional departments. Vigorous veterinary training seminars and workshops were highlighted a key means to that end. Building a giant panda disease data-base as well as a scientific research institute or lab under proper administrative guidance would also be a step in the right direction. Third, a combination of ex-situ and in-situ conservation would provide a more holistic plan for the protection of giant pandas. Fourth, a steady promotion of wild training and rQ:ntroduction programs are needed.Fifth increasing conservation education aids in the protection of giant pandas and the environment by creating public awareness. Sixth, strengthening basic scientific research to provide the scientific basis and theoretical support for the giant panda conservation is key.

Q: As far l know there has been an annual conference of the Chinese Committee of Breeding Techniques for giant pandas for over 20 years. Is this year’s conference larger than usual?
A: Since 1989, the Chinese Committee of Breeding Techniques has successfully hosted 21 annual meetings, offering a platform for the exchange of the latest technical results of giant panda conservation for all giant panda-holding institutions and benefits giant panda genetics management overall. The Conservation Priorities for the New Millennium took place in San Diego in 2000, but ever since that time the conference has been held in China. Simultaneously participants reached a consensus on giant panda conservation.This agreement has great potential to advance conservation of giant panda populations and other endangered species.

Q: China has established extensive international cooperation in giant panda breeding programs with America, Japan, and several European countries. Could I say that your success is an excellent example of international cooperation?
A: With the guidance and support of various institutes at home and abroad, international cooperation in breeding programs has achieved remarkable results in ex-situ conservation for giant pandas. Pandas at Zoo Atlanta, National Zoological Park, and the San Diego Zoo successfully gave birth to 17 litters of 19 cubs, 13 of which survived. Pandas in Kobe Oji Zoo, Tokyo Zoo, and Adventure World m Shirahama, Wakayama Japan delivered 15 liners 0f22 cubs. 16 cubs survived, of which 14 were born at Adventure World, thus making it the largest captive population overseas. Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico, and Zoo Madrid also established long-term cooperation agreements with us.Beyond that, international collaboration continued to develop in 2013. Pandas at Zoo Atlanta, National Zoological Park, Zoo Madrid, and Taipei Zoo successfully gave birth to cubs. In addition, Da Mao and Er Shun, both giant pandas in Chengdu and Chongqing, have been transferred to Canada. Po and Xi Lan,the pandas in Atlanta, were transferred to China.

Q: In 2013, amazing results were attained for captive giant pandas around the world. Could you please let us know about your future plans?
A: A self-sustaining,captive population is the core of our work; the main goal is solving conservation difficulties faced by captive populations. Our first step involves a steady increase in the quantity of captive populations in accordance with existing target numbers. However, we are still faced with some obvious problems. For example,the rapid increase of giant panda populations has led to a habitat shortage. In addition, the proficiency of giant panda disease control professionals in China varies greatly from one place to another with no integrated coordination and division of labor. Another challenge relates to a new set of problems following the rapid development of giant panda-oriented tourism. All of these issues require immediate action to maintain the safety of giant panda populations. Therefore, we plan to increase relevant studies on the prevention, control, and treatment of infectious/non-infectious diseases and improve our facilities’ infrastructure. A renewed focus on veterinary science, reproductive physiology animal behavior, and nutrition and growth to conserve wild giant pandas will improve knowledge and techniques used in ongoing breeding efforts. Last but not the least is an emphasis on conservation education that has the major responsibility to promoting preservation of biodiversity to the general public. Protection agencies at all levels are obliged to undertake the responsibility for mobilizing local governments and citizens to assist in both ex-situ and in-situ conservation efforts,thus writing a new chapter in the history of giant panda preservation.

Q: Chengdu is a well-known, historically cultural city located in the west of China. How you plan to make good use of this opportunity favorable geographical location, and support from the public to develop giant panda conservation and cultural undertakings?
A: Scientific research in giant panda-related research fields has never been better. Through years of effort] our capacity has significantly improved and several laboratories that are home to a wide range of research have been built. More scientific research institutions, institutions of higher education, special foundations, as well as an international cooperative center have joined in the endeavor. Giant panda conservation research will continue to strive for improvements and effective conservation management of this iconic species.

Q: Are you interested in opening up new realms for the giant panda cultural industry?
A: After “Kungfu Panda” created a great sensation and gained millions in box-office revenues worldwide, the movie crew visited the Chengdu research Base of Giant Panda Breeding for the first time. Surprisingly they were inspired when they witnessed peacocks fighting with the giant pandas and incorporated this element in “Kungfu Panda 2”. Some people might say it is a shame that we Chinese have both Kungfu and giant pandas, but no “Kungfu Panda”.

In the committee’s opinion, the giant panda cultural industry should be carefully planned and coordinated. Allow the city government to take the lead, the public to participate] and the media and public interest will rise. As China continues to develops to international standards, the development of the giant panda also rises. Just as this Giant Panda Magazine has improved, we will continue to work hard and show significant progress in the next ten years and beyond.