Living in zoos outside their natural environment may disrupt the bodies and behavior of giant pandas, new research suggests.
Experts say their body clock can go out of sync, making them less active and affecting their sexual behavior.
Academics from the University of Stirling in Scotland studied 11 giant pandas in six zoos over a year.
The impact they experience has been compared to how seasonal affective disorder affects humans.
Kristine Gandia, who led the study, said: “We found that housing giant pandas in zoos outside their natural range, where environmental cues like light have different cycles of those for which they evolved, has an effect on the rhythms of behavior throughout their journey. the day and throughout the year.
“Animals synchronize their internal clocks with external signals like light and temperature so they can display adaptive behavioral rhythms, like sleeping or eating at the right times of day or mating at the best time of year.
“When internal clocks are not synchronized with external signals like light and temperature, animals experience detrimental effects.
“In humans, this can range from jet lag to metabolic problems and seasonal affective disorder.”
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Ms Gandia added: “We found that giant pandas housed in zoos at higher latitudes than their natural range would exhibit lower activity levels.
“We also found that sexual behaviors and abnormal, repetitive behaviors have similar rhythms throughout the year, implying that giant pandas may display abnormal, repetitive behaviors when they are unable to express sexual behaviors, thus replacing one behavior with the other.”
Researchers used webcams to monitor giant pandas in six zoos, inside and outside their natural habitat, noting general activity, sexual behavior and abnormal behavior.
The animals were observed between midnight and 6 a.m. at regular intervals throughout the year, from December 2020 to November 2021.