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article imageChina to release pregnant pandas back to wilderness

By Laura Trowbridge     Jun 25, 2010 in Environment
Researchers in China are planning to send captivity-bred pregnant pandas into a semi-wilderness in order to introduce their cubs to a natural environment.
The head of China's Wolong panda reserve Zhang Hemin said one or two pregnant pandas will be released into a semi-wild area by the end of this year.
This wilderness area will be fenced and will allow Zhang and his colleagues to monitor the animals.
"The pandas will give birth in this semi-wild environment and teach their cubs how to forage for food and survive in the wild," Zhang said. reported that the transitional period would last around two years, and then the panda cubs will be released into wild mountain forests outside of the fenced semi-wilderness zone.
There are six pregnant pandas being considered for the task, but only one or two will be chosen "based on their health, temperament and survival skills."
"Zoo workers and vets who enter the zone will disguise themselves as pandas by donning a black-and-white fur coat and crawling on the ground," said Zhang. "This will help keep it as wild an experience for the pandas as possible."
China's plan to save the endangered panda species by releasing captive-bred pandas into the wild began in 2003 with Xiang Xiang. He was the male cub trained to adapt to the wilderness and then released in 2006. He was found dead just 10 months later, apparently killed by native wild pandas in the area.
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