A baby panda born in a Japanese zoo last month was judged as a male actually turned out to be a female, The cub, born on November 22, was erroneously judged as a male because its anus and urinary opening was longer than what is usually the case with female pandas.
But a month later, when panda handlers examined the cub, they found out about the mistake as the cub had no testicles. In case of the pandas, experts say there is an initial difficulty to gender them because the animals are born with undeveloped reproductive organs, a report in Daily Mail said.
A similar case of misgendering had happened back in 2005, when a cub judged female actually turned out to be a male by Adventure World.
This panda cub, born on November 21, was light pink at birth and weighed only just six ounces. This was soon followed by Adventure World deputy director Tatsuko Nakao’s announcement that the cub’s mother Rauhin, had given birth to ‘a healthy boy’.
Gendering pandas without genetically testing them is a difficult task because of their nearly similar looking male and female genitalia. The difficultly goes back to an incident in the 1940s where a couple of pandas were flown to the US for breeding until the authorities realised both of the animals were male.
There have been a series of incidents similar to this when in Bronx zoo in 1941, another misgendered pair, who were named Pan-dee and Pan-dah, turned out to be female. To avoid any such confusion, back in August, officials at the National Zoo in Washington, DC did a DNA test on a cub born there to correctly examine that it was a male.
The new cub, born in November is now over two pounds and her black and white fur has also started showing.
Authorities of the zoo, located in Wakayama Prefecture has also sought help from the public to come up with a name for the panda cub, reported Global Times. The cub is the 17th giant panda born in Japan since the panda base in Chengdu and Adventure World in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture started coordination.
The new cub was sired by a 28-year-old male Eimei, who is the oldest panda in captivity, authorities said. Compared to human age, Eimei would be over 80.
The oldest panda in captivity to reproduce through natural breeding, Eimei has also fathered 15 other cubs, has 22 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. The cub is also the first panda in Japan’s Adventure World in two years and if born male, would have been the would have been the first one in a decade.
Staffers at the zoo have affirmed that Rauhin and Eimei conceived naturally in June and the former showed signs of pregnancy in late October. Keeping in mind restrictions due to coronavirus, the cub will not be shown to the public before February next year. Once grown up, the cub is supposed to join a breeding programme in China.