Diet study focus of TAES research in effort to help save giant panda

COLLEGE STATION - It's a first for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station's Grazingland Animal Nutrition Lab, and oddly enough, the work doesn't have anything to do with livestock. But what researchers learn from the nutrition of a giant panda could be applied to livestock and other wildlife.

For many years the laboratory has analyzed fecal matter taken from livestock and wildlife, but never before has it attempted to study samples from giant pandas. And what they discover could help prevent the animal's extinction.

"We may also find something out from this that we don't anticipate. That might be good for livestock," said Doug Tolleson, director of the Grazingland Animal Nutrition Laboratory at Texas A&M University, one of three participating project partners that include Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

They all are working with the Memphis Zoo, the new home to two giant pandas -- Le Le (pronounced Luh Luh) and Ya Ya. They arrived at the zoo from China on April 7 as part of a project to learn more about the rare animal. The pair will make their public debut at the zoo April 25 following a mandatory acclimation period.

There are thought to be fewer than 1,000 giant pandas left in the wild, making it one of the most endangered species on the planet. The pair at the Memphis Zoo is the fourth pair of pandas on exhibit from the United States, and the ninth pair in the world outside of China.

"The ultimate goal of the zoo's conservation program is to preserve and restore giant panda habitat," said Dr. Chuck Brady, president of the Memphis Zoo. "But before this is done, it is important to understand the panda's dietary needs so the correct choices for habitat conservation can be made."

The pandas rely on a steady diet of bamboo and lots of it, consuming about 100 pounds per day. The research focuses on captive and field research in an attempt to understand the nutritional e

Contact: Blair Fannin
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications

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