China PandasChina Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) owns both the Ya'an Bifengxia panda base, where you'll be working on this expedition, and the Wolong National Nature Reserve wilderness training site.
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The following images were taken by Ami Vitale from Nov. 6, to Nov. 11, 2013 A captive bred baby panda sits in a basket as it is moved from a building at the breeding center of Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya'an, Sichuan, China.Ami Vitale
China PandasChina Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) owns both the Ya'an Bifengxia panda base, where you'll be working on this expedition, and the Wolong National Nature Reserve wilderness training site.
China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) owns both the Ya'an Bifengxia panda base, where you'll be working on this expedition, and the Wolong National Nature Reserve wilderness training site.Fourteen baby captive bred pandas sleep on a blanket at thepanda breeding center of Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya'an, Sichuan,China. Since opening in 2004, it has become home to several more giantpandas and this year 21 pandas were born. This includes the U.S.-bornHua Mei and Mei Sheng, who were relocated there after the May 12, 2008Sichuan earthquake severely damaged the panda breeding center at theWolong National Nature Reserve. Both facilities are managed by theChina Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
China panda release into Wild
The young pandas are undergoing survival training in a special enclosure and they will never see a human. Their training is administered equally by its mother and the keepers in costume. The breeding and releasing of Giant Pandas is the brain child of Director Zhang Hemin or “Papa Panda” as he is fondly know. The China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) was established at Wolong
China panda release into Wild
A one month old baby panda. The mother is a captiveborn panda and her baby is being trained to be released back into thewild at the Wolong Nature Reserve managed by the China Conservationand Research Center for the Giant Panda.
Panda costumes that are worn by caretakers hang inside theemployee room at the Wolong Nature Reserve managed by the ChinaConservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. Babies are bornin a quiet moss and as they grow they are moved to progressivelybigger, more complex and “wilder” enclosures, eventually learning toclimb and forage for themselves. From birth,a panda slated for releasewill never see a human, its training administered equally by itsmother and its unseen keepers in panda costumes.
A caretaker cleans the enclosure of a Giant panda that isbeing trained for release into the wild at the Wolong Nature Reservemanaged by the China Conservation and Research Center for the GiantPanda. Caretakers must dress as pandas because the pandas should neversee a human being before it is released into the wild.
China panda release into Wild
China panda release into Wild
A captive born panda eats bamboo in the Deng Sheng Valley forestin Sichuan China
China panda release into Wild
The following images were taken by Ami Vitale from Nov. 6, to Nov. 11, 2013 A captive bred baby panda sits in a basket as it is moved from a building at the breeding center of B
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Ami Vitale
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Inside The (Not So) Secret World of Pandas

Apr 14, 2014

Pandas remain a recognizable symbol of China worldwide, and yet they are a conservation-reliant endangered species. Photographer Ami Vitale recently accompanied a crew from PBS and National Geographic Television to the mountainous region of Sichuan Province, China to document giant pandas that are slated to be released into the wild at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at Wolong.

Be the panda. That is the simple idea behind the latest effort to save one of the world’s most adorable but obstinate species. Thanks to hunting and the destruction of their natural habitat, there are now only an estimated 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild. Conservationists have spent years trying to bring the much loved species back from the brink of extinction, but breakthroughs have been few and far between.

In 2005, scientists at China’s Wolong National Nature Reserve, in Sichuan province, attempted to release a young male into the wild, but it soon died, likely as a result of a fight with wild pandas. That’s when the reserve’s director, Zhang Hemin—dubbed Papa Panda—and his team real ized that the captive-born animal didn’t really know how to behave like a panda, and revamped the reserve’s program nearly from scratch. They eventually decided that the best way to raise captive pandas that act like wild ones was to erase all traces of humans from their world and allow the mothers to raise their cubs on their own.

Courtesy Ami VitaleCourtesy Ami Vitale 

Today, those who come into contact with Wolong’s captive pandas must first trade in their workaday clothes for furry, black-and-white panda suits that have been smeared with a species-specific perfume: panda pee and feces. Cubs are raised by their mothers in moss- and bamboo-cloaked enclosures, but virtually from birth their every move is tracked by some 200 closed-circuit cameras. As they grow, they are transferred to progressively larger and more complex panda playpens, where they learn to forage and frolic on their own. “This is a very promising way to link the breeding program to the need for more pandas in nature,” says David E. Wildt, an expert in species survival at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The strategy seems to be working. Last year, the reserve’s captive-panda population produced a bumper crop of 21 cubs. And so far, Zhang’s team has managed to successfully reintroduce two pandas into the wild. The first, a captive-born male named Tao Tao, was set free in a nearby sanctuary with about 13 wild pandas in October 2012 and is reportedly thriving. And last November, photographer Ami Vitale accompanied M. Sanjayan, a scientist working on behalf of the U.S.-based Nature Conservancy, and a crew from PBS and National Geographic Television to the Wolong reserve, where they filmed the captive pandas and observed the release of a second animal, a 2-year-old female named Zhang Xiang. At last update, in January, state media said Zhang Xiang had survived the two-month “transition period” and was doing well. Unlike pandas in zoos, “she will have no lines of schoolchildren waiting to meet her nor a fan page on Facebook,” Vitale says via email. But she will have the chance just to be.

Ami Vitale is an American photojournalist and documentary film maker

Emily Rauhala is Beijing Correspondent for TIME

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