By He Dan and Huang Zhiling
BEIJING - The Chinese government has decided to send a panel of experts to Japan to help investigate the death of a giant panda in a Kobe city zoo.
China's State Forestry Administration said over the weekend that it had requested its Japanese counterparts to seal up the corpse of the 14-year-old male panda, and would dispatch three experts to the western Japan city this week to investigate the case.
Xing Xing, also known as Kou Kou, died last Thursday at the Oji Zoo after being given a shot of anesthesia so zoo workers could collect his sperm to artificially inseminate his 14-year-old partner Tan Tan, according to Japanese media reports.
It is extremely difficult for giant pandas to reproduce in captivity.
China loaned Xing Xing to Japan in 2002, two years after his partner Tan Tan was sent to the Oji Zoo.
The zoo had on a few occasions tried to mate the pair through artificial insemination, but none of the cubs survived. Tan Tan delivered a stillborn in 2007, and a year later, a second cub died a few days after birth.
The China Wildlife Conservation Association and Japan's Kobe city signed an agreement this June to keep Xing Xing and Tan Tan in the Oji Zoo for another five years to continue research on breeding.
"It is still too early to comment (on the death). The experts have yet to reach there and investigate the case," said Li Desheng, a deputy chief at the Wolong National Natural Reserve Administration Bureau in Southwest China's Sichuan province.
A report in the West China Metropolis Daily on Saturday said "inappropriate anesthetic dosage" is suspected to be the cause of the panda's death.
Extracting semen from male giant pandas under anesthesia is common but the "dosage should strictly depend on each panda's physical situation", said a panda expert, who declined to be named, adding an overdose can lead to serious consequences, even death.
According to the latest statistics, there are some 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild, and about 300 in captivity. This year, five captive giant pandas have died all over the world.