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More investment for pandas' return to the wild
( 2003-07-16 11:45) (Xinhua)

The Chinese government will invest 120 million yuan (US$14.5 million) in releasing artificially-bred giant pandas from captivity and preparing them for their return to the wild.

The funds, part of a project to be implemented in the coming years, will be used to build a series of giant panda return-to-the-wild training centers in the Wolong Nature Reserve and the Bifengxia Panda Base in southwestern Sichuan Province.

The training center in Wolong Nature Reserve, located 2,730 meters above sea level and covering 20,000 square meters, provides giant pandas an environment very similar to their natural living habitat.

There are over 4,000 kinds of herbs, including trees, bushes and Pandas' staple food of bamboo, in the training center. In the semi-wild surroundings, pandas have to gather their own food and receive training in self-defense and home-building, according to Zhang Guiquan, deputy director of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center (CGPPRC).

The CGPPRC was jointly established by the Chinese government and the World Wide Fund for Nature in 1980. A total of 57 giant pandas have been artificially bred in the center since 1991. At present, there are 67 giant pandas at the center.

Meanwhile, researchers at the training center will monitor the pandas and help them to adapt to their natural environment.

Tang Chunxiang, senior engineer with the training center, said giant pandas are born with natural curiosity. However, artificially-bred giant pandas and pandas in captivity are usually absent-minded and lack an adventurous spirit.

At present, there are over 150 artificially-bred pandas worldwide. It is difficult for these animals to mate naturally and adjust to the wild. Only 10 and 24 percent of male and female giant pandas, respectively, can breed naturally.

According to Zhang, the return of artificially-bred giant pandas to the wild constitutes the best protection of the endangered species and demands a series of scientific measures to successfully complete the project.

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