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Giant Panda Rewild Project

Wild training methodCubs raised by the mother pandas (the wild training method as known to the public)Artificially assisted soft wild training 1Artificially assisted soft wild training 2
The chosen panda cubsThe parents themselves are wild pandas or wild pandas, with precious wild blood.The parents themselves are rescued wild pandas or the second generation of wild pandas, with precious wild blood. Before the age of 1-2, the cubs are no different from the pandas in an ordinary captivity. They are raised by the breeder and the biological mother. They are in contact with the same kind. They are close to humans and other companions from an early age, and there is no wildness in them.They’re the 4th or 5th generations of pandas in captivity. Before the age of 1 to 2, the young cubs are no different from the pandas in an ordinary captivity. They are raised by the breeder and the biological mother. They are exposed to the same kind and are displayed for close contact with the tourists. They are close to human beings and the same kind from an early age. There is no wildness.
Brief description of the methodThe training is divided into three phases – all three phases are carried out in a simulated wild training field (the second and third stage training fields are indistinguishable from a wild field). Cubs grow up independently from their mothers by birth, they do not get into contact with humans and the same kind. They do not eat artificial food. The breeder, the researcher cover the entire face and body with a special panda suit coated with the mother’s stool. The mothers teach the cubs survival skills such as to look for food, look for water source, mark territories, drive invaders, and avoid natural enemies.After the cubs are selected to participate in the wild training, they mainly learn the wild survival skills independently at the training venue, supplemented by the researcher’s teaching. There is no isolation of human beings throughout the training.After the training, the cubs become wild and strong, they would be able to choose their nest, food, mark the site and drive the invaders. The survival skills in the field are greatly improved compared with the ordinary captive pandas.After the cubs are selected to participate in the wild training, they are taught by the researchers in a  simulated wild training field during the day, and they’re taught survival skills such as looking for water sources, avoiding natural enemies, driving the invaders (by putting the natural enemy model into the training ground, and the researchers teach them this skill by driving away the cubs.) When their performance is good, the researcher feed the cubs with honey and reward them with kisses, strokes, etc. In the evening, they return to the artificial beast setting, and are taken care of by the breeder and the mother (it might not be their birth mother). When they’re not in training, the cubs are visited by tourists in the exhibition hall. The whole process of training does not involve isolation of humans and the same kind, and they feed on artificial food. Cubs appear to be more docile than in captivity after the training.
Duration of trainingTwo years to two years and a halfThree yearsThree months to one year
Cubs which have undergone this trainingTao Tao (male), Zhang Xiang (female), Hua Jiao (female), Xin Yuan (Female), Xue Xue (female), Zhang Meng (female), Hua Yan (female)Xiang Xiang (male)He Sheng (male), Qian Qian (female)
Cubs which have successfully returned to the wild after the trainingTao Tao (male), Zhang Xiang (female), Hua Jiao (female), Zhang Meng (female), Hua Yan (female)  
Cubs which have failed to return to the wild after the trainingXin Yuan (Female), Xue Xue (female)Xiang Xiang (male)He Sheng (male), Qian Qian (female)
Success rate of returning to the wild using this method71.40%0%0%
Research institute that has implemented this training methodThe China Research Center For The Protection of Giant Pandas
The China Research Center For The Protection of Giant Pandas
: this method was denied after Xiang Xiang’s failure to return to the wild in 2006, and this method has been abandoned.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
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Why Only China Has Pandas

Ailuaractos lufengensis (ancient pandas) had existed in East Asia, more precisely South China nowadays, since 8 million years ago. They were certainly not exclusively found in East Asia though – Agriarcros goaci, one of their related species, had once spread through European humid forests in today’s Hungary and France. But the entirety of Europe was covered in ice during the Ice Age of late Miocene. They went extinct as a result.

As Pleistocene took over, the panda family expanded around East Asia. They have conquered the entire Middle-East China at their peak. But the five enormous glacial movements threatened their survival.

Qinling and Daba Mountains that range from West to East have blocked the cold current from flowing down South, making the climate near Min Mountains and Liangshan warm and humid. A suitable climate has provided giant pandas a paradise where they could survive in for millions of years.

Last but not least, the focus on their habitats by China, especially since the 1980s when the Chinese government started to invest a lot of manpower and monetary support into helping the giant pandas, has stopped the drop in their population.

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Does Panda Hibernate?

Giant pandas don’t hibernate.

This has nothing to do with being afraid of cold weather or not. Instead, it is because of their main diet on bamboo. Bamboo doesn’t wither in winter; therefore, pandas don’t lack food during winter time. This is often the key factor whether a warm-blooded mammal hibernates.

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Companion Species of giant pandas

Companion species of the giant panda include snub-nosed monkeys, red pandas, musk deer, wildebeests, common pheasants, and golden pheasants. These precious creatures basically share the same habitats with the giant panda.

In terms of natural history, they are ancient creatures that have lived for millions of years. They have shared the same tough stories, through the glacial challenges during the Ice Ages; yet they have all survived with advantages in our country’s southwestern valleys.

Through such a long period of cohabiting, they have figured out compromising living spaces, nutritional allocations, day- and night-shifts, and even active seasons. Food has become the bond among the stable populations.

Although pandas are shy animal,avoiding to meet with other animals, but there are still are predators in their area like Asian golden cat,leopard,ravenous beast,wolf etc,but they only can attach old or weak pandas

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How Do Panda Cubs Excrete Waste Material?

Newly-born panda cubs are premature infants, incapable of excreting voluntarily. Therefore, early parenting by mother pandas includes licking the anus and perineum to stimulate excretion.

Cubs that are raised by human can normally excrete on their own about 130 days after birth. For this period of approximately 4 months, panda keepers stabilize the cubs with one hand, or make them lean against stable objects, and stimulate excretion with the other hand.

Excreta amount depends on food consumed and the stage of growth, but it fluctuates a lot in general. From 70 days since birth onwards, due to the increase in dry substance absorption, the fluctuation is even more significant. After 73 days, number of excretions can vary from once per day to 4 or 5 times per day.

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Are Pandas No Longer Endangered ?

On Sep 4 U.S. time, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced an improvement in giant panda’s conservation status from EN (Endangered) to VU (Vulnerable).

In response to the announcement, National Forestry claimed that giant pandas are still an endangered species, and that it is too early to announce an improvement of its conservation status.

Why do IUCN and the National Forestry have different perspectives on panda’s protection status? How should we work on their protection work in China?

Different judgments come under different perspectives. Pandas are still endangered.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the largest and longest-existing global environment protection organization. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species starting since 1963 is regarded as the most recognised benchmark of biodiversity.

As regulated, The National Forestry is to investigate in giant pandas’ existing status and resources every 10 years, and monitor the changes between the investigations. According to the 4th Chinese investigation on the giant pandas announced in early 2015, the wild population had increased to 1,864, 16.8% higher than the previous decade; and the wild habitat had grown 271,604 hectares, a 11.8% increase for a decade. Therefore IUCN theoretically judged that the “uncertainties have been eliminated” for giant pandas, and changed their conservation status from EN to VU.

“IUCN judged according to academic researches. We don’t differentiate in knowing about pandas’ existing status. However, we see the issue in different perspectives that lead to different conclusions,” explained Zhang Ling, Vice Head of Giant Panda Protection, National Forestry. “The National Forestry as a government body, not only has deeply investigated into giant pandas’ nation-wide, but also possesses first-hand experience and information in protection management work. Concluding the conservation conditions and survival hardship faced by the giant pandas, we can say they are still an endangered species. We believe this conclusion is more comprehensive.”

Many factors affect pandas’ survival, causing them to stay “vulnerable” even after the improvement of conservation status.

Under the IUCN Red List system, conservation statuses range from Extinct (EX), Extinct in the Wild (EW), Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), Vulnerable (VU), Near Threatened (NT), Least Concern (LC), Data Deficient (DD) to Not Evaluated (NE). CR, EN, and VU are jointly categorized as “Threatened”.

Obviously, although IUCN has stated the giant panda as Vulnerable, they are still considered threatened. There are many factors that can alter their survival and development.

As stated in the National Forestry’s report, there are 4 major reasons that combine to account for the giant panda’s status as a threatened species. They are isolation of habitats, unsatisfactory inbreeding phenomenon, global climate change, and protection management ability that has to be strengthened.

Among these, the isolation of habitats exerts the largest influence. “According to the 4th investigation on the giant panda, their habitats have grown in terms of area, and have improved quality. But this is only a general comment. During the investigation, we found that the isolation of habitats is very severe.

Among 33 habitats isolated by natural and artificial interferences, 22 are categorized as risky for extinction, with populations lower than 30. 18 of them are even categorized as highly risky, with populations lower than 10,” claimed Zhang.

“In general, artificial interferences have weakened their influences. Those include 319 hydroelectric power plants, 1,339km of roads, 268.7km of high-voltage power cables, 984 static human settlements of populations greater than 50, 479 mines, and 25 tourist attractions.

Despite the general decrease, certain areas see increases. Other interferences like grazing, transportation, agriculture, fires are even more common.

Furthermore, new interferences keep appearing, such as mountaineering. These cause habitats to shrink or vanish, deteriorating the isolation. An example is the habitat near Dragon Grassland, Qinling, which has retreated 10km to the North due to open tourism. Another example is the vanishing of panda population near Baisha River, south to Qionglai Mountain, due to hydroelectric power plant development. These all explain the difficult situation of giant panda protection.”

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Pandas’ Existing Status

The giant panda has once spread across the watersheds of Yangzi River, Yellow River and Pearl River, ranging from Beijing suburbs to Guangdong area, even Southeast Asia. Now we can only see them in ranges of Qinling Mountains, Min Mountains, Qionglai Mountains, Liang Mountains, and Xiangling Mountains.

According to the 4th National Investigation on the Giant Panda, there are only 1,864 pandas living in the wild, where 80% of them reside in Sichuan Province.Ranging across the 49 prefectures of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu, giant panda’s habitats cover a total area of 258 million hectares.

By 2014, 67 natural reserves have been established across the country for pandas, 27 more than there were during the 3rd investigation. However, 46.2% of the habitats, accommodating 33.2% of the entire population, still exist outside natural reserves. Habitat isolation and threats to smaller communities call for responsibility of the people to protect.

By 2015, there are 425 reared giant pandas across the world. Among all the protection bases, only 4 have constantly reared more than 10 individuals, namely The China Research Center For The Protection of Giant Pandas, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Qinling Research Center of Giant Panda Breeding, and Beijing Zoo. Beside, giant pandas are also living in more than 40 other rearing sites, including Shirahama Adventure World in Wakayama, and Atlanta Zoo.

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Why Does Panda Eat Bamboo?

Giant panda’s ancestor was a carnivore. When it came to The Ice Age, extreme coldness forced Ailuaractos lufengensis (ancient pandas) and other carnivores into a narrow habitat. Available food shrank in scale, forcing the ancient pandas to turn herbivore.

Subsequent increasing survival pressure has further changed the giant panda into eating hard-to-digest and unwholesome bamboos.

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Are Panda Dangerous?

Despite its taxonomic classification as a carnivoran, the giant panda is generally an omnivore. Wild giant pandas feed mainly on bamboo and shoots, but they also hunt small animals like bamboo rats and birds.

There are also occasional reports of giant pandas sneaking into villages and steal goats for food, which prove that giant pandas have remain certain offensive characters from their carnivoran nature. But due to the fact that their habitats locate deeply in mountains and forests, and that they are sensitive in nature, there have not been any report of giant pandas attacking people.

Captive pandas, on the other hand, are familiar with panda keepers’ voices and scents, with whom they have been in contact since their births. So, they barely show offense to keepers.

But due to safety concerns, panda keepers seldom encounter them separately after they turn two years old. On close observation, you can see that their claws and buckteeth are very sharp. They can severely injure keepers with those even without offensive initiatives – they might only want to show intimacy.

This is why we always choose to take photos with pandas during their meal time, when they are too busy with their apples and bamboo shoots to become interested in us.

But There are still reports that panda attcked hunman.

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How Long Can Panda Live?

The general lifespan of a giant panda is around 20 to 30 years. According to sources, they can live to 25 years old on average. “Mei-mei” (International Genetic Code 217) has lived to 36 years old, which equates a 100-year’s age for human kind.

Previously, there was a reared giant panda at Ocean Park Hongkong called Jia Jia, who had lived for a record-breaking 38 years.