China to train giant pandas to survive in wild

08:38, May 20, 2010      

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A panda chews on a bamboo shoot in an enclosure at the Shanghai zoo where they are unveiled to the public for the first time ahead of the 100-day countdown to the Shanghai World Expo January 20, 2010. [Agencies]

China will start building a center at the end of May to train giant pandas born in captivity to live in the wild, experts said Wednesday.

The center would be located in Dujiangyan City, in southwest China's Sichuan Province, the home province of giant pandas, said Zhang Zhihe, the head of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and founder of the center.

At a cost of 60 million yuan ($8.79 million), the center will include an experimental zone covering 130 mu (8.7 hectares) and 1,892 mu of woodlands, Zhang said.

The center will accommodate the first batch of three to five giant pandas after the center's construction is completed in three to five years, he said.

In the experimental zone, the giant pandas will be trained to reduce their dependency on humans. But they will still live in cages.

After five to 10 years training in the experimental zone, the giant pandas that perform well will be introduced into the "half-natural" zone.

In the following five to 10 years, the pandas there will live in tree holes or caves and forage for food. But they will still receive frequent checkups and participate in artificial breeding.

Then, only one or two of the giant pandas will have the chance to spend another five to 10 years in a nearly "natural" zone with little human contact. Then they will be released into the nearby giant panda natural reserve, Zhang said.

Giant pandas are the world's most endangered species. Some 1,590 panda live in the wild and over 300 pandas are in captivity in China, Zhang said.

China started a giant panda training project in 2003 to teach the animals to live in the wild. But the project suffered a major setback when Xiang Xiang, a five-year-old male panda, was found dead in a remote part of the Wolong Nature Reserve in February 2007.

Xiang Xiang was released into the wild in April 2006 after nearly three years of training.

Source: Xinhua


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