The rapid growth of manually-bred giant panda population has laid a solid base for the Giant Panda's Reintroduction to Nature. Reintroduction is now more and more applied in the protection and recovering of species that are endangered or on the edge of edge of extinction. However, it involves risk as an expensive and complicated method. So, comprehensive analysis, demonstration and early research become indispensable before the execution of the whole plan.
After many years' hard working and with strong supports from government supervisors and related departments, China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda has now formally initiated the early research on giant panda's reintroduction to Nature. The early research includes such aspects: animal behavior, veterinary medicine, nutriology, endocrinology, ecology, and feeding and management of the giant panda.
The main objective is to train manually-bred giant pandas to make them able to survive in the wild by helping them get rid of bad habits and making them confident. The early research may also provide theoretical basis for the reintroduction to nature of rescued wild giant pandas.
The main content includes: investigating the ecological environment of the training field and monitoring its available resources for animals; doing comparative study on the development and nutritional supply of manually-bred animals and wild ones in the training field; testing and comparing the endocrine change of manually-bred animals and wild ones in the training field; monitoring the parasite infest condition; comparative study on contagious diseases and their immunology, and intestinal microorganism flora. Besides, this research will provide new theoretical basis for the feeding and management, disease treatment, endocrinology, and animal behavior of the giant panda.
The First Stage of the Early Research Plan
1. Put a giant panda born in 2001 (named Xiang Xiang) in a wild training field with an area of 27000 square meters, change its diet gradually till it eats bamboos only, reduce its contact with human and cultivate its surviving ability in the wild.
2. Let the panda live alone in the training field for survival ability, make it more used to wild life, monitor its weight, health condition and nutritional indicators, and compare its development and health condition of different breeding methods.
3. Compare behavior differences between manually-bred giant pandas and trained pandas.
4. Monitor the hormone levels of manually-bred giant pandas and trained giant pandas through their excrement to know their degree of sexual maturity, survival pressure and behavior.
5. See the adapting ability of the giant panda to the training field and how it uses the bamboos in the field, and evaluate and monitor the consumption and change of natural resources in the field.
6. Monitor the change of testosterone with ELISA in the excrement of the giant panda.
7. Investigate the intestinal microorganism flora of the giant panda with different diets.
8. Treat diseases: including epidemics, parasite and the threats from a new environment in the training field.
The Second Stage of the Early Research Plan
Observation in the first week shows that "Xiang Xiang" lives well in the training field, but he wastes a lot when eating the bamboos---only making use of 25%. At present, it consumes 30 kilograms of bamboos everyday, and consumption is expected to increase gradually. We estimate that there is 50 000 kilograms of bamboos in the training field, and 6000 kilos is available to "Xiang Xiang." So, the bamboos in the training field can provide 5-6 months' food for him. In order to carry out the early research plan, it is necessary to built several new training fields and make "Xiang Xiang" in bigger training fields. Meanwhile, new training fields also give plants (mainly bamboos) in the present field some time to recover.
Therefore, we are planning to raise money and build a bigger reintroduction training field, i.e. about 200000 square meters. The new field shall be divided into 3 parts, respectively of an area of 40000, 60000 and 100000 square meters. In order to reduce pollution to the ecology and environment, boundaries will be made with high-voltage pulse electric network.
During the training process, we shall monitor the trainee giant panda by various means to get related data as well to ensure its health.
During the training process, we shall monitor the adapting situation and health state of the trainee giant panda. If any external factors or diseases make it inappropriate for the training to continue, we shall terminate or change the training plan immediately. That means the chosen giant panda is not necessarily the one to be sent back to Nature---it may be just a research object in the early research on the reintroduction of giant pandas to Nature.
Of course, we all hope the reintroduction training can be carried out smoothly and the result will turn out as we expect. We want to have more contributions to the reintroduction of the giant panda to Nature so as better protect it.
Now, the program goes on very well. "Xiang Xiang" has acquired good surviving ability and its dependency on human beings and artificial foods decreased. At present, it is better at moving fast and identifying direction and place; and its immunity to external parasites and defending capability have also been strengthened.
Note: Basic Information about "Xiang Xiang"
Xiang Xiang, Male, was born in the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda on August 25, 2001. It is one of the twins born by the giant panda "No. 20." Weaned when half-year-old, it is now very healthy and has never had any illness.
"Three Key Problems" in the Reproduction and
Breeding of the Giant Panda Tackled
Giant Panda Archive