Birth of Twin Pandas in China Highlight Controversy Over Breeding Centers

babypandatwinsAnimal lovers around the world rejoiced at the news that on June 22nd, a female panda gave birth to twin female cubs in a breeding center in Chengdu, China after undergoing artificial insemination.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Kelin, a 7 year-old panda, gave birth to two healthy twin cubs, the first twin pandas to be born in China in 2015. Kelin gave birth to the cubs after a long struggle with getting pregnant. As first, she refused to mate with male pandas and later was unable to get pregnant once she was open to mating.

However, not all animal lovers and conservationists are entirely pleased with the birth. Some animal experts criticize the practice of breeding pandas in captivity and especially the practice of artificial insemination, deeming the practices costly and counterproductive in that they do next to nothing to address what they feel should be the main concern for animal lovers: the human impact on the dwindling panda population. Pandas are an endangered species. There are less than 2,000 pandas left in the wild.

“I love pandas and I wish that they were in a better state in the wild,” said Mark Bekoff, an ethologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “I’m just not convinced that these programs work out well in terms of getting pandas out there.”

Some animal-rights activists are pleased with the conservation efforts, though, claiming that they do more good than harm in drawing attention to the panda’s plight around the world.

“Everyone is enormously excited about baby pandas because they are undeniably attractive,” said Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. “So by having pandas in zoos it really engages people — it really is about getting people to care, and that’s important.”

Ever since the panda population has dropped to dangerously low numbers, the Chinese government and international conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have partnered together to create close to 70 panda reserves that are open to the public. Currently, China and the rest of the world have about 300 giant pandas living in zoos and breeding centers.

The practice of artificial insemination isn’t exclusive to animals. Human pregnancies resulted from the practice are quite common around the world and especially in the United States where 7.4 million women, close to 12% of American women, have received infertility services such as artificial insemination in their lifetime.