China / Society

China to release more pandas to wild

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-09-21 15:51

CHANGCHUN - China will release another two captive-bred giant pandas into the wild this year.

Zhang Hemin, director of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) of Wolong, told Xinhua that the center will continue to return giant pandas to nature.

Giant pandas are one of the world's most endangered species. About 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Southwest China's Sichuan province, while more than 300 live in captivity.

China started sending captive-bred pandas into the wild in 2006 when five-year-old male panda Xiang Xiang was released. However, Xiang Xiang died after fighting with other pandas over food and territory roughly a year later.

Scientists have drawn lessons from the failure and improved training methods to help pandas adapt to the wild better.

In October 2012, Tao Tao, a male panda, was successfully released in Liziping nature reserve, Sichuan.

In November 2013, the first artificially-bred female giant panda Zhang Xiang was also released.

Researchers have been following them with the help of GPS collars, radio positioning tools and DNA extracted from their spoor. They have also been studying the pandas' activities and hormones.

The animals have been living well in the wild, said Zhang.

"We will continue to release artificially bred and trained pandas into nature. This is our key task for the future."

Experts believe that sending captive-bred pandas back to the nature after providing them with sufficient training will help them integrate with wild pandas. This will be conducive to improving genetic diversity among wild pandas regionally, increasing the number of wild pandas, and enhancing their survival capabilities.

The artificially-bred panda population has reached some 300, compared with only 10 in the 1990s. "This is a big success, meanwhile, we must release them to nature, for their real home is there."

Some people also worry that the wild living environment is no longer safe for captive-bred giant pandas, as bamboo groves are decreasing and the habitat is fragmented.

To solve these problems, an alliance to protect giant pandas and their habitat was set up in May this year, by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the administrations of Sichuan state-owned forest zones and forest farms.

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