I KNEW IT!
Well this is a very technical question so i hope you ready for a nerdy and long answer… lets get started
As far as government involvement. It depends on the animals. Critical endangered animals are usually heavily monitored by the government. The pandas are watched by the chinese government. They actually “own” the entire panda population in the world. Zoo Atlanta “rents” them, I dont think I am privy to tell how much, but lets just say its a pro football players salary… not a 1st round draft pick but still. PLUS we have to produce a certain number of offspring…
Pandas are probably the most involved besides the rhino. A panda actual has only 3-4days ovulation a year usually late summer. So Zoo atlanta does what’s called panda watch. there is hiring extra staff(seasonal employees that entire job is to watch and record sexual behavior all day and overnight.
Genetic diversity amongst endangered animals is a very hard job in of itself. For any animal on the SSP there is a studbook. which is a master list of all the animals of that breed/species all across america. there is usually only one book controlled by one zoo. The person at that zoo will look at the animals, compare genetic make up, then decided who should mate with whom. Until a set mating pair has been agreed upon most animals are put on some form of birth control to prevent unwanted matings and mating rituals that for some animals are a bit over the top and need to be monitored for safety. When dealing with genetics of a population there are two factors you have to be aware of; Hybrid Vigor and Inbreeding depression. Most people frown upon inbreeding because humans include morality in mating. But in wild animals such a thing doesnt exist so inbreeding is a natural occurrence among animals. And most breeders use inbreeding as a way to keep certain traits dominant in a population. A studbook keeps records of all genetic factors and in a small population of animals a geneticist has an allowable percentage of inbreeding depression. Now if you want me to get technical with all that i can later…
Our pandas have been paired by the chinese government. Breeding challenges are different for different animals. But the main issues throughout are recreating natural condition to promote natural behaviors. Most animals are born in captivity these days, which means growing up they rarely witness adults going through the mating process. So researchers have to come up with enrichment toys the animal can play with that inadvertently promote mating habits. There is a fake tree log in the rhino yard that we can fill with treats, which promotes horn rubbing and territory marking. Once mating season is over we look at all the Successful mountings and calculate an expected timeline. After that keepers and vets get together and do random hormone testing, we will tackle that another day as well.. Once there are consecutive positive readings, the public is notified and the baby planning begins!
Now comes the hard part(if you can believe that). The AZA has set parameters for animal enclosures AND DIFFERENT PARAMETERS FOR BABIES! So once its confirmed that an animal is preggers you have to start changing the entire yard around(hopefully its an elephant which gives you almost two years to get ready). The main point is plenty of hiding for momma and baby to feel safe, also Depending on the animal and community type there will be some changes to who goes where in the exhibit and how the exhibit is maintained. Some mothers are so protective that they will not go out in an exhibit if they smell a certain sex. So then there has to ether be a dedicated yard or through cleaning of the enclosure if switching animals.
Baby monitoring is also a 24hr job. Most people dont realize this, but maternal instinct isnt innate in every female. Some females do not want to be a mother and some do not know how to be a mother. Small newborns such as panda babies, which are smaller than a stick of butter.
Or even primate babies who are tiny as well need to be monitored in fear that mothers will reject them, crush them, kill them or just not know what to do with them. So panda watch starts up again. and every action is recorded. this goes one till everyone is comfortable that ether the baby is fine on its own or the mother has gotten the hang of motherhood. after that the baby is introduced to the rest of animals and then life resumes back to normal until the next breeding!
whew…. that was a BOOK!
i wasnt expecting to write so much. way to get all that info from my brain! Too bad you didnt ask to include this question as a part of my giveaway. because its a winner…