Four captive-bred giant pandas to produce cubs in the wild of SW China

10:11, July 25, 2010      

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The Wolong China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, in southwest China's Sichuan Province, has returned four well-selected pregnant giant pandas into the forest, expecting them to deliver their cubs in the wild.

The giant pandas -- Zi Zhu, Ying Ping, Cao Cao and Zhang Ka -- arrived Tuesday at a tract of woodlands in a training base in Hetaoping, Wolong, which was built to help giant pandas live in the wild, said Tang Chunxiang, a senior expert with the center.

"So far, their moods are stable. Cao Cao displays the pregnancy reaction of pacing around," Tang said.

The giant pandas, aged four to five, were expected to give birth to their cubs in the forest, covering some 20,000 square meters, and they will live there until the young pandas are aged three to four, Tang said.

"All of the carefully-chosen pandas have experience of living in the wild and three of them, except Ying Ping, have given birth to cubs. We hope the mothers can teach their cubs life skills to help them survive in the wild," he said.

The would-be mothers, previously kept in captivity, will produce and breed the cubs on their own, while the workers of the center will observe them through surveillance cameras.

"If they need help, the workers will show up dressed in costumes that make them look like giant pandas, in order to reduce the animals' reliance on humans," Tang said.

Also, the workers would simulate sounds and smells of panda's natural enemies, aimed at improving their vigilance and raising their chances to survive in the wild, he said, adding that some small animals, such as squirrels and rabbits, would also be released into the woods.

This is the second phase of a plan conducted by the research center to gradually release captive-bred giant pandas into the wild.

The first phase of the scheme, launched in 2003, suffered a setback when Xiang Xiang, a five-year-old male giant panda, was found dead in 2007 after he was returned to the wild.

Giant pandas, known for being sexually inactive, are among the world's most endangered animals.

About 1,600 giant pandas live in China's wild forests, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. Another 290 are in captive-bred programs worldwide, mainly in China.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:王千原雪)

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