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Hesitant panda heads for forest

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-15 08:08

Hesitant panda heads for forest

Giant panda Xue Xue is released into the wild in Sichuan province on Tuesday. The 2-year-old was the fourth panda to be released by China into the wild in eight years.  Heng Yi / For China Daily


When her cage was opened at 10 am on Tuesday, 2-year-old panda Xue Xue did not come out as expected.

After observing the outside for about three minutes, she slowly emerged but then returned immediately. A keeper in a panda costume tried many times to lure her out with bamboo.

She eventually came out again and headed for dense forest in the Liziping National Nature Reserve in Shimian county, Sichuan province.

Although the release took only about 20 minutes, it was a moment that panda handlers had waited 26 months for.

Soon after Xue Xue was born on August 15, 2012, handlers began preparing for her release into the wild by placing her at a base in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan.

"As Xue Xue, who weighs nearly 56 kg, knows how to find food, water and shelter by herself, experts believe she is qualified for reintroduction into the wild," said Zhang Hemin, chief of Wolong's administrative bureau.

Xue Xue is the fourth panda in eight years to be released by China into the wild.

The first panda released into the wild, Xiang Xiang, had a difficult time.

Xiang Xiang, born in August 2001, returned to the wild in Wolong on April 28, 2006. On February 19, 2007, his body was found in the woods, with broken ribs and injuries to his ears and back. Researchers suspected he had taken refuge in a tree after fighting with wild pandas, but had fallen.

Xiang Xiang's death forced handlers to revise their approach to caring for pandas and training them to survive in the wild.

After the birth of Tao Tao, who in 2012 became the second panda to be returned to the wild, handlers changed tactics. They approached him, dressed in panda costumes that had been splattered with panda urine.

Zhang, the Wolong administrative bureau chief, said that a panda's release "is a success only when he or she has mated and fathered or mothered a cub".

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