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China's re-introduction program of pandas making great strides


04-17-2017 08:05 BJT

(Source: CGTN)

China has made great strides in releasing captive-bred giant pandas into the wilderness. And the country's successful efforts are apparent in footage captured in the southwest Sichuan Province -- where a panda can be seen expanding its territory to a wider range and trying to pair with local wild pandas.

Living in the wildness may not be that tough for Zhang Xiang. The five-year-old female panda was recently captured on video smelling an infrared camera and a tree, to identify whether there were smells of her species.

Zhang Xiang was bred in captivity and released into the wild at a nature reserve in Sichuan Province in 2013. And researchers find she has adapted well and is in normal physical condition.

"The three elements for the habitat of a giant panda are water, bamboo and trees. You can see there is bamboo under the coniferous forest, but the bamboo is not so dense. That is the typical habitat for a wild giant panda. Choosing this place indicates Zhang Xiang has totally adapted herself to the ecological environment of the wild," said Zhang Hemin, Director of China Conservation & Research Center for The Giant Panda.

Research also indicates that Zhang Xiang has shown clear cutting behaviors and is likely to mate with one of the pandas from local population. This was the ultimate goal of China's research program on re-introducing pandas to the wild.

"She stood up later, and smelled the mark from the root to up to more than one meter high. This indicates the mark was left by a male giant panda. It shows that Zhang Xiang has grown into a mature lady showing growing interest in males," Zhang said.

The number of wild pandas in China has grown steadily to 1,864 as of the end of 2016, and those in captivity are numbered at 464.

And since the re-introduction program began in 2006, China has released eight pandas into the wild. Five have survived.

The program came to a halt after the first released panda Xiang Xiang sadly died after falling from a high position when fighting with other wild pandas for territory.

Researchers then started to let cubs learn wilderness surviving skills from their mothers. And Zhang Xiang was one of them.

Panda conservation in China has led to a balance being restored thanks to human intervention and science. But maybe the time has come to rebuild panda populations in the wild, rather than simply keeping them in cages.

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