A rare brown and white male panda has been groomed to mate with a female panda by Chinese scientists who hope to discover what gives it its special skin color.
Experts at the Qinling Giant Panda Research Center in China said they had chosen a "super experienced" partner for Qizai, aged nine, who had never mated before.
Qizai is the only brown and white panda in captivity in the world and his only coat has perplexed the experts for years.
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Qizai, aged nine, who has a unique color of brown and white, has arranged to mate with panda Zhu Zhu, 18. Zhu Zhu had been mother four times since 2008
It is said that Qizai, about 27 in human years, is at a suitable age to mate. The scientists described him as "strong", "active" and "full of energy".
The experts had spent months trying to choose an ideal partner for Qizai. They finally decided to Zhu Zhu, 18, who had been pregnant twice by natural mating and had been mother four times since 2008.
Zhang Danhui, a researcher at the Qinling Giant Panda Research Center, told China's central television station: "The female panda must be very cooperative and have good resistance, only then could she attract the male panda to mate successfully.
The scientists said that Zhu Zhu had "excellent genes." They added that she was "healthy and as energetic as any younger female panda."
Qizai was found as a two-month-old puppy, weak and alone, in the Qinling Mountains of China.
The nine-year-old bear lives in the Foping Panda Valley in Shaanxi, northeast China
China's Central Television Station said Qizai and Zhu Zhu were taken to two neighboring precincts at the Qinling Giant Panda Research Center in late June after Zhu Zhu began showing signs of being in season.
A female panda is in heat only once a year for 24 to 72 hours, so it is so difficult to have panda babies.
Scientists hoped that by staying in the house next door, the two pandas could become familiar with each other before they were paired.
When the experts confirmed that Zhu Zhu was in heat through a hormone test, they took Qizai and Zhu Zhu to the same cage to mate.
Adorable white and brown Qizai has become a star in the animal world
However, researcher Zhang said the process was not successful because Qizai was "inexperienced."
He told China's central television station: "He tried many times, but failed."
Not to miss the brief window to impregnate Zhu Zhu, the scientists carried out artificial insemination on the couple.
They are expected to find out if Zhu Zhu is pregnant at the end of this month.
If artificial insemination is successful, experts said that the color of the Qizai puppies could provide a clue to understand what has caused some pandas to be brown and white.
Where do the brown pandas live?
Qizai (pictured) is the only brown and white panda in captivity in the world
The Chinese province of Shaanxi is the only place in the world where giant brown and white pandas have been detected.
Only 10 sightings of brown pandas have been recorded, and all of them took place in the central mountains of Qinling.
Qizai, whose name means the "seventh son", was rescued as a puppy after two months of life in the wild after having been apparently abandoned by his mother.
It was previously thought to be the only living brown panda in the world until a wild panda bear with the same color pattern was discovered wandering in a nature reserve in Shaanxi in March 2018.
The pandas of Qinling Mountain are considered a different subspecies of the pandas found in other mountain ranges, namely, in Sichuan Province, southwest China, and Gansu Province, northwest China.
A new panda research base, the Qinling Panda Giant Research Center, was established in 2018 to study the pandas of the Qinling Mountains.
Based in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, the main objective of the center is to decode the special color of brown pandas' hair.