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Pioneering panda had a cool dad

July 25, 2009|Associated Press

BEIJING — For the first time, a giant panda cub has been born in China after being conceived using frozen sperm, officials announced Friday -- an innovation scientists hope will help the endangered species avoid extinction.

The cub's birth Thursday means breeders will no longer be forced to rely on semen from China's few virile males, and may even be able to bring in sperm from zoos in San Diego, Mexico City and elsewhere.

The panda cub, born to You You at the Wolong Nature Reserve breeding center in southwestern Sichuan province, is the 10th born at the facility this year.

It was You You's third successful pregnancy.

The pinkish, hairless cub emerged just after dawn, and its mother was shown licking the tiny, wriggling creature on video broadcast by the state television channel CCTV.

Panda researchers said Friday that it was the first live panda birth in the world using frozen sperm.

"We did try before but it failed," said Huang Yan, a deputy research technician with the China Panda Preservation Research Center.

He declined to provide specifics but said the Wolong team had improved its thawing techniques, making frozen sperm more viable.

Sperm samples are deep-frozen using liquid nitrogen; in previous attempts, only 20% to 30% of the sperm survived. But this time the center managed to raise viability to about 80%, Huang said.

Scientists carried out the artificial insemination in March, and You You was found to be pregnant in June. The sperm from Lu Lu had been frozen for "a number of years," Huang said.

The sex of the baby panda is not yet known, so it hasn't been named, Huang said.

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