Prof. Hildebrandt named “Human Panda Personality of the Year” for achievements in assisted reproduction

Since 2012 the Giant Panda Global Awards honour conservation work for the Giant Panda all over the world. Awardees include individual pandas, offspring as well as zoological gardens, veterinary teams, keepers and other personalities with significant achievements in giving these charismatic animals a future on our planet. In the 2019 edition of the awards Prof Dr Thomas B. Hildebrandt was named “Human Panda Personality of the Year” (Gold Award) for remarkable achievements in applying assisted reproduction technologies and imaging techniques in giant panda. 

Hildebrandt already described ultrasonography to assess and enhance health and reproduction in the giant panda in the iconic book “Giant Panda – Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management” in 2006. The successful artificial insemination performed in close collaboration with the Chinese experts from the Chengdu Panda Base and the panda team from the Berlin Zoo resulted in the live birth of the first panda birth in Berlin. Two twin cubs were born in August 2019 at the Berlin Zoo following a gestation period of 147 days to mother Meng Meng.

Hildebrandt is a widely acclaimed expert for giant panda and wildlife reproduction and the only European member of the Academic Board of Chengdu Research Base of the Sichuan Key Laboratory of Conservation Biology on Endangered Wildlife Academic Committee. Together with his team at the Department of Reproduction Management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin he conducts basic research on the reproduction of various species including elephants, rhinoceroses, and giant pandas. In three decades as wildlife researcher he developed and performed dedicated interventions and thereby pushes the boundaries of what is possible in assisted reproduction. These interventions are designed for situations where traditional approaches in maintaining a vital population of a species are no longer feasible owing to extremely low numbers of individuals or other reproductive constraints. Despite the poor prospects of species on the brink of extinction, these advanced assisted reproduction techniques provide new hope for rhinoceroses or giant pandas.

The Giant Panda Global Awards are based on online votes from panda experts and the general public based on nominations in 15 categories. For the 2019 edition more than 325,000 people voted for their favourites. The Awards were presented on a ceremony on January 3, 2020, at Pairi Daiza (Belgium).