China to release sixth captive-bred giant panda into wilderness

Beijing, Feb 2 (IANS) China is set to release another captive-bred giant panda into the wild this year, the media reported on Tuesday.

Hua Yan, a two-year-old female, will be the sixth giant panda bred in captivity to be released into the wild after completing a two-year wilderness training programme, said Huang Yan, chief engineer of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP).
“This will be the first time we have released a giant panda in spring. This is part of a wider programme to introduce more captivity-bred pandas into the wild to diversify the gene pool,” said Huang.
Previously, pandas were released in late autumn or early winter, the time when wild young pandas usually leave their mother to live independently.
Hua Yan lives in the wilderness training reserve at Tiantai mountain in Sichuan, along with another three pandas who are also being trained.
China began releasing captive-bred pandas into the wild in 2006 when Xiang Xiang, a five-year-old male, was released in the Wolong National Nature Reserve. However, Xiang Xiang died roughly a year later after fighting with other pandas.
In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Tao Tao (male), Zhang Xiang (female) and Xue Xue (female) were released in Liziping reserve.
The latest release was Hua Jiao, a two-year-old female, in November 2015.
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.