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201210Jan22:26

Six captive-​bred giant pan­das to be released into the wild

Infor­ma­tion
pub­lished 10 Jan­u­ary 2012 | mod­i­fied 21 April 2012
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Wednes­day 11 Jan­u­ary six captive-​bred giant pan­das will start their reha­bil­i­ta­tion period in the “Panda Val­ley”, a 134 hectares of enclosed for­est in south­west China Sichuan Province. The two to four year olds will be released into the wild as soon as they have proven to be ready to take care for them­selves in ‘wild’ conditions.

The reha­bil­i­ta­tion and release is part of a 50-​years project that is one of the most ambi­tious attempts to replen­ish (and intro­duce new genes into) the endan­gered pop­u­la­tion with 100 captive-​bred ani­mals. But many con­ser­va­tion­ists fear the pro­gramme will dis­tract atten­tion from the more impor­tant task of pro­tect­ing the ani­mal in the wild and could lead to tragedy. More­over, in pre­vi­ous cases where re-​introduction of endan­gered species into the wild have been suc­cess­ful the released ani­mals were raised in the wild – and not cap­tive bred – and just relo­cated to the region from which they went extinct.

Many re-​introductions of giant pan­das have proven unsuc­cess­ful so far. They fell ill because they could not sus­tain them­selves or died. Of 10 pan­das released since 1983, only two sur­vived in the wild. Six were cap­tured again and returned to the breed­ing cen­tre after severe weight loss, and two sup­pos­edly died.

This time researchers hope a phased approach will bring greater suc­cess. These six ani­mals, born and raised in Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breed­ing, are reha­bil­i­tated and trained in a con­trolled area of 134 hectares called Panda Val­ley. The sci­en­tists hope that the young ado­les­cent ani­mals will be resilient enough to sur­vive in the wild. Those who can cope best with the sim­u­lated ‘wild’ sit­u­a­tion will even­tu­ally be released into the nature reserve.

Giant Pan­das eat­ing, mov­ing, and play­ing at the “Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breed­ing” (成都大熊猫繁育研究基地), north­east of Chengdu, China:

(Source: the Guardian, 10.01.2012; SkyNews, 10.01.2012; China​.org​.cn, 09.01.2012; Wikipedia)

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