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Pair of giant pandas inseminated in Shaanxi

TWO female giant pandas have been artificially fertilized with semen from a panda aged 21 - the equivalent of 60 in human years, experts said yesterday at a giant-panda breeding base in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The senior panda, Xiao Ming, was a wild panda rescued by animal preservationists in Shaanxi in 2007. He was blind from cataracts and suffered from kidney problems.

He became the second giant panda to receive cataract surgery in China last December, which helped restore his eyesight.

"Xiao Ming has been in good health and has become sexually frisky since spring. We found 390 million sperm per milliliter of his semen, with 60 percent of the sperm active for fertility," said Ma Qingyi, head of the veterinary hospital with the Shaanxi Research Center of Rare Wild Animal Rescue and Breeding.

"Using sperm from a wild panda can help avoid the problems of close breeding among pandas in captivity," he said.

If the two female pandas, nine-year-old Zhu Zhu and six-year-old Yang Yang, become pregnant, they are expected to give birth to cubs in the autumn.



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