Success in the wild giant panda chase
For 19 years, Liao Liang, associate manager of Sichuan-based Jiuding Mountain Nature Reserve, has kept a pile of panda ordure in his office desk.
He did it because that’s the only evidence of the existence of wild pandas inside the area. Now he can give it away because on Wednesday, a wild giant panda was reportedly caught on infrared camera in the area. That’s the first photo taken of a wild giant panda in that protection area since it was founded in 1999.
Before the photo was taken, people knew there were giant pandas inside the Jiuding Mountain Nature Reserve but had never seen any. Now there are solid video records.
Some might not realize the importance of wild giant pandas compared with those inside the breeding centers.
The ultimate purpose of animal protection is to let them live in independently in the wild, breed there and become part of the local ecological chain, and China has always been rendering efforts toward that goal. Since 2006, China has already released 11 housed pandas into the wild and it plans to release another five pairs soon.
However, compared with their counterparts in the wild, housed protected animals generally lack the necessary skills to live in the wild. Being raised in air-conditioned rooms and fed with carefully designed meals every day, they are too mollycoddled to survive in the wild without the assistance of humans.
It would be much better for the survival of the species if there are more wild pandas living in the nature reserve, because they will have adapted to the conditions there.
The giant panda photographed on Jiuding Mountain shows the protection area has suitable conditions for pandas to live, which shows the local staff have done their job well.
For other protected animals such as South China Tiger, the problem is even more serious because their number is smaller. At the most, there are only about 100 South China Tigers living in zoos, all of which are descendents of six tigers. After generations of inbreeding, the majority of the tigers suffer from hereditary diseases such as strabism and low birth rate.
Giant pandas in protection centers do not face this problem yet. However, the total number of giant pandas in the wild is still as low as 1,000, and every one more means a more diversified gene pool and more hope of preventing the same genetic fate befalling them.
A total of 102 infrared cameras are currently deployed in the Jiuding Mountain Nature Reserve, and the data is scheduled to be collected and analyzed in the autumn.