Giant panda couple coming to Atlanta zoo
March 14, 1999
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Atlanta's zoo is looking forward to a special delivery of Chinese giant pandas this summer.
When Yang Yang and Lun Lun arrive, Zoo Atlanta will become only the third facility in the country to house the endangered animals, along with the San Diego Zoo and Washington's National Zoo.
The Chinese government granted permission for the male and female pandas to go to the Georgia capital in part because of Zoo Atlanta's success in breeding animals in captivity.
"What we need to understand better is how pandas live in the wild and how we can manage them better in captivity so that we get natural social behavior," said Dr. Terry Maple, director of Zoo Atlanta.
Fewer than 1,000 pandas are left in the wild, in large part because logging is destroying their habitat in China.
Getting the pandas to breed in captivity is seen as critical in trying to preserve the species.
"Pandas need to stay with their mother a lot longer than the Chinese (zoo keepers) thought," Maple said. "They used to pull the pandas away four, five or six months after they had been with their mother."
Early weaning prevents the newborns from learning parenting skills, Maple said.
Should Yang Yang and Lun Lun become parents, Zoo Atlanta plans to keep baby and mother together for as long as five years.
If Zoo Atlanta's plan to breed pandas works, it would have success where other American zoos have failed.
Correspondent Sean Callebs contributed to this report.
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