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Researchers in panda costumes take it back to the wild

People's Daily Online)  12:41, October 09, 2012

(CNS/Zhong Xin)

Edited and translated by Huang Beibei, People's Daily Online

After transferred to a bigger living environment with a higher altitude and a more complicated terrain for five months, giant panda Tao Tao, 26 months old, has finished the third phase of its training to be reintroduced to the wild, scheduled on October 11, 2012.

Tao Tao lives at the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong National Nature Reserve, Sichuan province.

Researchers wear panda costumes to ensure that the cub's environment is devoid of human influence.

According to reports, in July 2003, Wolong launched a project meant to train captive pandas to live on their own. Its first "graduate", Xiang Xiang, was released to the wild in April 2006, after undergoing three years' training. In February 2007, the 5-year-old male panda was found dead, bringing an end to the first phase of the reserve's program.

Researchers believe Xiang Xiang fell from a high place after competing with other members of his species for territory and food.

In June 2010, Wolong resumed the project, planning to train four pandas in three years and release one or two from captivity.

A month later, the reserve brought four female pandas to its field training base 1,800 meters above sea level. On Aug 3, Cao Cao gave birth to Tao Tao.

Researchers, keen to let Tao Tao be raised with as little human interference as possible, decided to observe the mother and son from a distance using special equipment. If they had to get closer, they would don panda costumes.

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