Behavioral and hormonal consequences of transporting giant pandas from China to the United States

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2012;15(1):1-20. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2012.624046.


Zoological institutions strive to ensure the welfare of nonhuman animals in captivity. Part of this effort involves reducing the level of distress experienced by an animal to the greatest extent possible. However, some necessary zoo management practices such as transportation induce stress responses. An extensive literature exists concerning the animal welfare implications of road transportation for farm and laboratory animals. There has, however, been little focus on the effects of air transportation on wild animals in captivity. Because many endangered species are transported by air for breeding purposes, it is especially important to study the effects of stress on these species. This study investigated the behavioral and hormonal consequences of transporting 4 giant pandas (2 male-female pairs) by air from China to the United States. An autoregressive test revealed that urinary cortisol measures were highest for 2 subjects, Lun Lun and Tian Tian, during the flight than during the remainder of the 30-day period posttransport (p < .01). No long-term behavioral changes or problems emerged as a result of the transport. The study found that more research is needed to develop a complete understanding of transportation stress and welfare in captive wildlife.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Animals, Zoo
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • China
  • Female
  • Hydrocortisone / urine
  • Male
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Transportation
  • United States
  • Ursidae*


  • Hydrocortisone