According to state news reports, breeding centres reported 25 births this year through artificial insemination, with 21 of the cubs surviving.

 

There are believed to be 1590 giant pandas living in the wild, with another 161 in zoos worldwide, the government says.

 

Scientists have tried since the 1960s to increase their numbers through captive breeding and artificial insemination.

 

"The year 2005 has witnessed the largest number of surviving newborn pandas in China's history of artificial fertilisation," the China Daily newspaper quoted Zhang Zhihe, director of the Chengdu-based Giant Panda Breeding Technology Committee, as saying.

 

"We owe this achievement to Chinese scientists," Zhang said.

 

'Valuable experience'

 

"We owe this achievement to Chinese scientists"

Zhang Zhihe,
Director Giant Panda Breeding Technology Committee

"They have acquired mature technologies and valuable experience after years of hard work."

 

Sixteen of the surviving baby pandas were born at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre in the southwestern province of Sichuan, where most pandas in the wild live, according to Zhang.

 

Last year, 30 artificially fertilised giant pandas produced 12 offspring but only nine survived, according to the reports.

 

Zhang and his team have shown pandas videos of mating in the wild in hopes of encouraging them to breed, according to the China Daily.