Dwindling giant panda populations in China are about to get an important boost: The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding recently announced that it would release six giant pandas into the Chengdu Panda Valley on January 11, 2012.
The black and white panda bear is one of the rarest mammals in the world, with only about 1,000 animals still surviving in the wild. Thirty years ago, Chinese scientists began to realize that their iconic panda bear was in danger of becoming completely extinct, so researchers from the Chengdu Panda Base rescued six weak animals from the wilderness and began species protection through new artificial breeding techniques. Today, the breeding population at the Chengdu Panda Base has increased from only 6 pandas to 108, making Chengdu Panda Base the world’s largest artificial breeding panda population.
“Rather than keeping them in their enclosures, we will spend the next 50 years helping them return to their natural habitat,” said Dr. Zhang Zhihe, Director of the Chengdu Panda Base. ”This is the ultimate goal of the Chengdu Panda Base, and is Chengdu’s historic mission as the hometown of the Giant Panda.”
Choosing the six bears that were ready to be released into the wild was a difficult decision for the researchers. They spent an entire year evaluating individual pandas based on their age, health, gender ratio and genetic background. Daily behavior, including socialization, living and feeding habits, and even play habits were also considered.
Twin brothers Xingrong and Xingya, together with Gongzai, Yingying, Zhizhi and Qiqi, were considered suitable and were chosen to be the pioneers for rehabilitation training. The selected pandas are all adolescents aged between two and four (the equivalent of human teenagers) and were observed to have better adaptation skills.
The Chengdu Panda Valley will serve as a stopping point for the pandas between a controlled environment and primary wilderness areas. Pandas that perform well after several phases of rehabilitation will be eventually be released permanently into the primary Giant Panda Nature Reserve.
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