Bear released into forest six years after failure of similar project
A young panda, trained to survive in the wild, was released into the Liziping Nature Reserve in Southwest China on Thursday almost six years after a similar project ended in tragedy.
Two-year-old Tao Tao was reared in captivity since birth at the Wolong National Nature Reserve. He was set free during a morning ceremony hosted by the State Forestry Administration and the Sichuan provincial government. The event drew global media interest.
His release "signifies a new stage of development in China's protection of giant pandas and another important milestone in wildlife protection", said Yin Hong, deputy director of the administration.
Tao Tao was reluctant to leave his cage at first, despite a handler's offer of bamboo stalks. He was eventually coaxed out, and after a few minutes walked down a mountain path, crossed a stream and disappeared into the dense bamboo forest.
For the last two years the cub has received training in surviving in the wild from handlers dressed in panda costumes, and his mother, Cao Cao.
"In September, the State Forestry Administration held a meeting for panda experts who agreed that Tao Tao, who now weighs 42 kg, could be released into the wild," Zhang Hemin, director of administration at Wolong National Nature Reserve, told China Daily. "He's healthy, has the necessary survival skills and a strong sense of self-protection."
Pandas are being released into the wild in an effort to boost their numbers.
China has succeeded in releasing more than 20 species of animals into the wild, including the crested ibis, Chinese alligator, elk, wild horses, Tarim red deer and yellow-bellied tragopan.
"But it's far more difficult to release pandas into the wild due to their low birth rate, uniform diet and fragmented habitat," Zhang added.
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