From dolphins to the Giant Panda - chemistry at SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo

At the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Mark Edwards and Lee R. Hagey of the San Diego Zoo and Pamela Thomas of SeaWorld will discuss how chemistry affects the lives of zoo and marine animals, including animal nutrition, marine habitat and pharmacology, and the language of the Giant Panda.

The meeting of ACS, the world's largest scientific society, will be held April 1-5 in San Diego, Calif. San Diego is one of only three U.S. cities - joining Atlanta and Washington, D.C. - that boasts the Giant Panda at its zoo.

Mark Edwards, the chief nutritionist at the San Diego Zoo, supervises the diets of more than 4000 animals at the zoo and 3200 animals at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Edwards has developed an easily digestible formula - a mixture of baby formula and puppy formula - for infant pandas, which has been instrumental in combating infant mortality in the endangered species. Pandas frequently bear twins, but the mother rarely nurtures both offspring; one is often left to die. From 1964 to 1997, only 90 cubs out of 133 litters born in captivity worldwide survived their first month of life. Since implementing Edwards' formula in 1999, 18 of 20 newborn pandas at the Wolong Nature Reserve and Captive Breeding Center in China have thrived.

Lee Hagey, also of the San Diego Zoo, will present his research on deciphering the chemical code of the Giant Panda's language. Few humans have ever witnessed a panda in the wild - as the solitary animal is only found in three Chinese provinces - and researchers have little information on how the animals interact outside captivity. Hagey's research shows that the Giant Panda communicates using a language of scents and scent marks. Males exude long-lasting scents to demonstrate their individuality and advertise their control of territory; females radiate short-term scents that report on their reproductive status and help male pandas identify the female producing the mark.


Contact: Charmayne Marsh
American Chemical Society

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