The number of giant pandas in captivity has risen to 518 as of the end of 2017, "which means pandas are unlikely to become extinct even in huge catastrophe," an official at the State Forestry and Grassland Administrations (SFGA) said on Thursday.
China has been working hard breeding captive giant pandas, with the number topping 500 for the first time, and they can preserve 90 percent of genetic diversity for 200 years, Yang Chao, an SFGA official said at a Thursday conference.
"With the number of captive giant pandas topping 500, pandas won't become extinct even in big catastrophe," said Zhang Hemin, deputy director of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
He noted that China has also developed a global giant panda gene pool, which helps long-term preservation of the giant panda's sperm and stem cells.
The pool helps scientists understand how pandas mate and provides scientific support for releasing pandas in the wild and human intervention in the breeding of pandas.
Breeding captive pandas is just step one. Releasing them into the wild and letting them survive in the wild is our real goal, Zhang said.
Nine captive pandas have been released into the wild so far, Zhang added.
One of the main reasons for releasing pandas into the wild is to see if they successfully mate, Zhang said.
In August 2017, female giant panda Cao Cao gave birth at the Hetaoping semi-wild training base in Southwest China's Sichuan Province. She got pregnant after being released into wild in March 2017, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
This year, Cao Cao gave birth to twins at the Hetaoping panda base, with the male cub weighing 215 grams and his younger sister weighing 84 grams, Xinhua reported.
Cao Cao's case marked a success in experiments to encourage captive pandas to mate with wild pandas to increase the genetic diversity of the captive stock, Zhang explained.
In July, a wild giant panda cub was found dead in Sichuan Province as torrential rains pounded the region.
The panda's death sparked online discussions, with many netizens urging authorities to keep all wild pandas in the panda habitat and to take good care of them.
Zhang said that the "panda is not a pet. Their real home is in the wild… Although they may face various kinds of threats in the wild, they evolve and live better there. Keeping them captive forever is not our purpose."