Panda Numbers Boosted by Learning (We Are Not Making This Up)

Mother Nature does not want the panda to exist. Scientists estimate that the number of pandas has dwindled to less than 2,000. Yet, against the odds, the endangered species is making a comeback.

A panda’s diet consists entirely of bamboo shoots and leaves, which reduces a panda’s libido. The bear feeds for 10 hours a day and has little interest in anything else, other than sleep. A female panda is only in heat for 72 hours each year and can only become pregnant during a short window during this period. In the vast Chinese wild, the chances of a male and a female panda happening upon each other during this short time frame is remote. On top of this, first-time panda mothers do not always feel a maternal instinct, and they may try to kill their newborns. While more than half of all births are to twins, a mother of two cubs will attend to one and abandon the other. And to top it all off, the panda mating process can be, well, tricky. So how are pandas overcoming these obstacles?

Through learning, of course! Scientists at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre in Sichuan province have closely observed pandas since the birth of the first cub in captivity in 1963. Through various trial-and-error experiments, they learned that they could fool mothers into caring for twins by swapping the cubs regularly. By conducting daily urine tests on the females, the researchers learned the right time to artificially inseminate the females, and that process is boosting births. Workers at the center even experimented with Viagra (for the pandas). Using these methods, the center has raised 168 cubs since 1987.

However, the scientists were not the only subjects to a rigorous learning process. Through educational adult panda videos (essentially, panda pornography), the bears have also learned how to surmount barriers to the survival of their species.

To survive, all organizations (and species) must make learning a priority. For some expert advice on how to apply a culture of learning to your organization, check out the following links:

Designing the Smart Organization

Informal Learning

Leading a Learning Revolution

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