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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 12:42 GMT
Pining panda prosthetic paw plea
Panda. Image: AP
Niu Niu has problems feeding and finding a mate

A Chinese animal rescue centre is appealing for ideas on how to fit one of its ailing giant pandas with an articifial front paw.

Niu Niu lost her left front paw along with part of the leg in a fight with three other females in December.

She was taken to the Rare Animal Rescue Centre in Shaanxi province, but staff say without two front paws she is finding it difficult to eat.

They also suspect the loss is hindering her ability to find a mate.

She cannot mate normally as others do
Ma Qingyi
"Niu Niu was badly injured during the fight and was rescued by a local farmer," the rescue centre's Ma Qingyi told the Shanghai Morning Post newspaper.

Her weight has increased since the incident, Mr Ma said, but other problems have emerged.

"She is at the prime age to breed, but she cannot mate normally as others do, which adds to the difficulty in inducing captive pandas to mate."

Damaged paw. Image: AP
She lost the left front paw and part of the limb in a fight
The centre is appealing for any ideas on creating an artificial paw, and says it hopes to receive "meticulously scientific" advice.

Recently, conservation scientists in Japan fitted a captive dolphin with a prosthetic tail made of rubber that allows it to swim and jump as normal.

The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) has become endangered primarily through human encroachment into its traditional habitat.

But the population is believed to have stabilised in recent years as the Chinese government has moved to protect its most iconic mammal.




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Panda cub playground
10 Feb 07 |  In Pictures
Pandas gain world heritage status
12 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Hope for future of giant panda
20 Jun 06 |  Science/Nature

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