China announced the first successful birth of a panda cub from artificial insemination using frozen sperm, officials said today.
The breakthrough gives new hope for the endangered animals, which are notoriously poor breeders.
Female panda You You gave birth to the cub yesterday morning at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center, in southwestern Sichuan.
New arrival: TV cameras captured the moment the panda cub entered the world
It is You You's third baby, and the tenth panda cub born at Wolong this year.
As seen on footage from state broadcaster CCTV, the pinkish, hairless cub arrived just after dawn, and was licked clean by its mother.
Panda researchers said today they believe it's the first successful live birth worldwide using frozen panda sperm.
Proud mother: You You licks her cub clean
'We did try before but it failed,' said Huang Yan, a deputy research technician with the China Panda Preservation Research Center.
The sperm from male panda Lolo had been frozen for 'a number of years', said Huang.
Artificial insemination is commonly used for breeding pandas, which have very low sex drives.
In 2006, 34 pandas were born through artificial insemination in China and 30 survived - both record numbers for the endangered species.
The technique has also been used at zoos in the United States.
However, using panda sperm that has been frozen earlier - instead of from an immediate donor - had not been successful before.
Scientists carried out the artificial insemination in March, and You You's pregnancy was confirmed in June during an ultrasound exam.
The technique, if it can be replicated, will be a boost for panda conservation efforts, said Matthew Durnin, regional science director for The Nature Conservancy, a conservation organisation.
'In the past, they're limited to using semen from a few virile, reproductive males. If you're using only one male at a time, you start to get lower and lower diversity.
'This can help with issues of genetic diversity among your captive population,' he said.
Breeding giant pandas in captivity has previously proved difficult, and they are threatened by loss of habitat, poaching and a low reproduction rate.
Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two or three years. But the fertility of captive giant pandas is even lower, experts said.
Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in China's southwestern Sichuan province, which was hit by an earthquake last year that killed nearly 70,000 people.
An additional 120 are in Chinese breeding facilities and zoos, and about 20 live in zoos outside China.
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