Cameras capture daily lives of mother panda, cub in the wild

Updated: 2014-10-21 14:25

By Huang Zhiling(China Daily USA)

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A mother panda holding her cub and breast-feeding it looks so tranquil that people might think the two are in a park.

However, the scene is from one of about 80 snapshots and videos of the two wild pandas taken by a camera installed in the Heishuihe Nature Reserve in Dayi county, Sichuan province.

Located more than 2,000 meters above sea level in the transitional area from the Chengdu Plain to the West Sichuan Plain, the reserve covers 319 square kilometers and is home to such animals as the giant panda and snub-nosed monkey.

To monitor the animals, workers have installed cameras in the reserve.

"Judging from the hair and posture of the panda cub, we infer that it is about 40 days old and is in good health," said Wei Liao, a researcher at the reserve.

The snapshots and videos show the life of the pair from Oct 6 to Oct 8. The cub stayed in its den alone, and then frolicked with its mother and left the den with her. One video shows the mother using her front paws to put the cub beside her before slowly lying down and placing it on her stomach to breast-feed it.

"The mother is experienced in taking care of the young. She must have been a mother before," Liao said.

There are only 1,596 wild pandas in the world. They live in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

"Seventy-eight percent of them are in Sichuan," said Zhang Hemin, chief of the administrative bureau of the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Wenchuan county, Sichuan.

To enlarge the wild panda population, researchers have trained four captive-bred pandas and released them into the wild.

Xiang Xiang was the first panda released into the wild. He was born in 2001 and released in 2006. On Feb 19, 2007, his body was found in the woods. Researchers suspected he had taken refuge in a tree after fighting with wild pandas, but had fallen.

"Tao Tao, the second panda returned to the wild in 2012, and Zhang Xiang, the third panda, released in 2013, have adapted to the natural environment," Zhang said.

Last week, his reserve released Xue Xue, the fourth panda sent into the wild. All four pandas released to the wild are from his reserve.

One year after Tao Tao's release, he was found in a tree in an area that is more than 3,000 meters above sea level. A vet used a rifle to tranquilize the frightened bear, which fell into a net set up by the team.

The vet took a blood test, which showed that the panda was in good health. "Tao Tao weighed 42 kilograms when he was released into the wild. When he was found one year later, he had gained at least 10 kilograms," said Yang Zhisong, a researcher who was at the scene.

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Cameras capture daily lives of mother panda, cub in the wild

(China Daily USA 10/21/2014 page5)