News / Asia

China's Program to Re-Introduce Pandas Into the Wild Proving Difficult

Two giant pandas eat bamboo at the new base of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan province, China, October 30, 2012
Two giant pandas eat bamboo at the new base of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan province, China, October 30, 2012
Ron Corben
China's program to breed the endangered giant panda in captivity has been largely successful, with several pandas being kept in zoos outside China, including in the United States. An eminent U.S. ecologist and key supporter of panda conservation, says the program is failing to re-introduce the bears to the wild.  

Efforts to save the giant panda strengthened in the 1980’s with the founding of a research base for breeding the bears in Chengdu, in China’s Sichuan province.
The program started off with six giant pandas in 1987. But after a successful breeding program the population has reached over 300 bears held in captivity while a further 1,600 to 2,000 live in the wild.

The pandas, once a carnivore, are almost totally reliant on bamboo and native to China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces.               

Dr Hou Rong Principal Researcher Chengdu Research Foundation (Courtesy: Chengdu Research Foundation)Dr Hou Rong Principal Researcher Chengdu Research Foundation (Courtesy: Chengdu Research Foundation)
x
Dr Hou Rong Principal Researcher Chengdu Research Foundation (Courtesy: Chengdu Research Foundation)
Dr Hou Rong Principal Researcher Chengdu Research Foundation (Courtesy: Chengdu Research Foundation)
Dr. Hou Rong, principal researcher at the Chengdu Research Foundation, says the program has exceeded the initial goal to breed 300 pandas in captivity. “So we have already created a sustainable population in captivity right now. But in the beginning it was really very, very difficult" she explained. "But now we have solved the many problems in the breeding program [so] it really helps to have the captive population [to] increase.”

Dr. Hou says the next step is to re-introduce captive pandas into the wild. But she acknowledges such plans face many challenges. “Our panda have been living in captivity for five generations. So the panda mother doesn’t know how to live in the wild. This is a challenge for us,” she stated.

The program to re-introduce captive pandas to the wild came to a halt after the death of the male panda, ‘Xiang Xiang’, or ‘Lucky’, which was released into the wild in 2006. Xiang Xiang died a year later after apparently being attacked by wild pandas.      

Dr. George Schaller is a veteran ecologist and member of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. He travelled to China’s Chang Tang region in 1988 to study the panda. He has also published research on the panda bear and has played a key role in encouraging China to develop the panda conservation program.

Dr. Schaller says the rehabilitation program needs to move forward after being halted following Xiang Xiang’s death. There is little reason, he says, to keep so many Pandas in captivity. “In general China has tried hard. The 350 or so pandas in captivity - and there’s no excuse for having that many. They should make a real effort to rehabilitate them into areas where there’s good forest, good protective areas and [where] pandas are gone or almost gone - and that’s not a big deal, it just takes a bit of will power and time and effort,” he noted.

Schaller says the program’s lack of progress appears to be due to official concerns of facing criticism over further Panda losses in the wild.

“It is a cultural feeling that the animal is seen as better off with a roof over its head. And, as you know, if you release animals some of them are going to come to a bad end. Then persons who released it - the officials are going to be criticized and you avoid that by simply not doing it,” said Schaller.

Schaller says ‘Xiang Xiang’ was released in an area heavily populated by pandas. He says there is also plenty of international assistance available to China to help introduce the bears to the wild. “They’re obviously very rare - if there are only about 2,000 left. On the other hand it’s a species that has more attention and more money than any other endangered species in the world. So most certainly the forest can be protected and the poaching work can continue and the animals can be monitored - there’s plenty of money for all of this,” he said.

The panda’s conservation has led to a balance being restored with the aid of human intervention and science. But as Dr. George Schaller sees it, the time has come to rebuild panda populations in the wild rather than simply keeping them in cages.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Timur Tyncherov
January 10, 2013 10:57 AM
Of course, I feel sorry for the pandas bred in the soft society of the Sichuan Conservation Center. These softie pandas are used to the public trough and social equity, and now they are cast to the wild dog-eat-dog world and have to face survival of the fittest. Where one alpha male has a wife, a sex wife, an office wife, a secretary, a sexetary, some meadow maids… Whereas others have nought. By the way, the softie pandas must have a better genome by this very reason, a more diverse genome. Not like in the wild, where 99 percent of babies are sired by the same male. Maybe, we should wait a bit more to see their Einstein to be born in this Sichuan socialist sanctuary.

by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakameguro
January 03, 2013 12:35 AM
Why we need to help Chinese to live pandas in the wild? We have only 2000 pandas in the wild and that means there are no influences in the ecosystem whether they live or die.

This is not the issue of world ecosystem but the issue of business of China. They breed pandas just for money.

by: Animal Lover from: San Francisco
January 02, 2013 10:54 PM
I think the Pandas are sick and tired of being bred in captivity, they want to be left alone.

by: Michael Lou from: Milton, Massachusetts
January 02, 2013 12:33 PM
Why is it almost a required rite to have a non-Chinese "expert" pointing this and that to the Chinese? The panda is beloved by the vast majority of the Chinese people, and given how difficult it is in general to breed them in captivity, isn't it obvious that no compassionate human being would want to see another tragic death? The Chinese are doing a great job with their national treasure. Leave them alone! Perhaps the good professor can do something else with his time.
In Response

by: Peacenik from: USA
January 06, 2013 4:46 PM
With 'their national treasure' ??? Panda's are TIBETAN. Always have been, always will be.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs