China to release fifth giant panda

Another giant panda bred in captivity will be released into the wild in China's Sichuan province on Thursday, officials said on Tuesday.

IANS| Last Updated: Nov 18, 2015, 00:36 AM IST
China to release fifth giant panda

Beijing: Another giant panda bred in captivity will be released into the wild in China's Sichuan province on Thursday, officials said on Tuesday.

The two-year-old female Hua Jiao, the fifth candidate of the country's programme to send artificially-bred giant pandas back into the forests, has finished a two-year wilderness training programme, said Huang Yan, chief engineer of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP).

Hua Jiao, weighing around 50kg, is the younger sister of Tao Tao, the male panda released in 2012, Xinhua news agency reported.

"Hua Jiao has met all wilderness training targets and she is absolutely an A graduate," said Huang, who is in charge of the training.

"We are hoping to introduce more artificially-bred pandas into wild to diversify the gene bank of local panda community," he said.

Hua Jiao is currently living in the wilderness training reserve at Tiantai mountain. She will be released into the Liziping Nature Reserve in Shimian county before undergoing a physical examination. Her elder brother Tao Tao was released in the same reserve.

China began releasing captive-bred pandas into the wild in 2006 when Xiang Xiang, a five-year-old male, was released in Wolong National Nature Reserve. However, Xiang Xiang died roughly a year later after fighting with other pandas over food and territory.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014, three more, Tao Tao (male), Zhang Xiang (female) and Xue Xue (female) were released in the Liziping reserve, but Xue Xue died in November 2014.

Researchers have been following Tao Tao and Zhang Xiang with the help of GPS collars, radio positioning tools and DNA. Monitoring data shows the animals are doing well.

Giant pandas are one of the world's most endangered species. Fewer than 2,000 pandas live in the wild, mostly in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi. There were 375 giant pandas in captivity at the end of 2013, about 200 of them at the CCRCGP.