Giant panda given survival training before release

17th Oct 2012

A giant panda bred in captivity in China has been released into the wild after undergoing intensive survival training, according to state media.

Two-year-old male panda Taotao was released from a nature reserve in Sichuan province, the Xinhua news agency reported.

However, his keepers have tried to learn lessons from the case of Xiang Xiang, a giant panda who was released in 2006 but died a year later after getting into a fight with wild pandas.

Taotao was fed and taught rudimentary skills by his mother, but scientists at the Wolong Nature Reserve also devised a comprehensive survival training regime for him.

His handlers wore panda suits to prevent him becoming over-familiar with humans, and scientists now have their fingers crossed Taotao has sufficient survival skills to flourish in the wild and hopefully mate.

Zhang Hemin, a director at China's giant panda conservation centre, said Taotao had grown up in what he called "semi-wild conditions," meaning he stood a greater chance of adaptation than Xiang Xiang.

"This means its fighting capability and survival skills both improved significantly," he said.

Nevertheless, Taotao still faces a challenge to adapt, and he will have to learn to deal with the challenge of living with other wild animals, not just pandas.

"Taotao is only the second such panda released to nature, and we remain at the experimental stage," Mr Zhang told Xinhua.

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