Lazy pandas that are kept in zoos could be suffering from jet lag

Pandas may be suffering from "jet lag" when kept in zoos.

Giant pandas living in captivity outside the latitude of their normal range are less active, say scientists, potentially affecting their welfare.

They explained that all animals have an internal clock – called a circadian clock – which is regulated by cues from their environment.

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But animals in zoos can be exposed to very different triggers compared to animals in the wild.

Kristine Gandia, of the University of Stirling, said: "Animals, including humans, have evolved rhythms to synchronise their internal environment with the external environment.

"When internal clocks are not synchronised with external cues like light and temperature, animals experience adverse effects.

"In humans, this can range from jet lag to metabolic issues and seasonal affective disorder."

Our circadian clock is altered by a number of external factors, called zeitgebers – meaning "time givers".

Being exposed to artificial light or not having enough exposure to natural light, for example, can affect our circadian rhythm.

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Exercise, social activity and what temperature it is are also linked to our internal clock, as are sleeping and eating patterns.

All of these factors can be altered or compromised in captivity – meaning plenty of animals in zoos, including pandas, could be dealing with the adverse effects of a faulty biological clock.

Some of the other issues that can arise when your circadian rhythm is out of whack include extreme tiredness and problems with memory and decision-making.

Jet lag occurs in people when they experience a mismatch between their normal daily rhythms and the actual time in a new place.

The effect happens after travelling between time zones and can cause problems with sleeping or tiredness. Usually it is only felt when travelling between time zones with more than a three-hour difference.

Jet lag is temporary but the length of time it takes for the effects to wear off vary from person to person, with the symptoms usually more pronounced the more time zones you have crossed.

It usually takes about one day to recover from each time zone crossed, according to Mayo Clinic.

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