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Captive-Bred Panda Dies in the Wild
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Xiang Xiang, the first captive-bred giant panda to be set free into the wild was found dead on February 19 this year, but www.newssc.org released the news for the first time on May 31. Zoologists from the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in Sichuan Province are convinced that Xiang Xiang died due to injuries sustained falling from a high place while fighting for food with other wild giant pandas.

Xiang Xiang, male, was born in the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center on August 25, 2001. He had been taught the skills necessary for living in his natural habitat for almost three years before being released to the wild in April 2006. The forest where Xiang Xiang was set free is located in the core area of the Wolong Nature Reserve, about ten kilometers away from the giant panda research center. The scientists fitted Xiang Xiang with a GPS (global positioning system) device so they could continually track his movements.

Experts from the center explained that the two main factors that threaten the survival of wild giant pandas are: "the wildlife habitat degradation and parasitic infection." According to the third national wild giant panda investigation conducted between the year 2000 and 2002, there are four wild giant pandas that lived in the forest where Xiang Xiang was set free. Experts worried that Xiang Xiang might have a difficult time dealing with his wild brethren in their "old haunt".

Captive-bred giant pandas are regularly debugged and the bamboo that they eat is strictly sterilized, while wild giant pandas are better used to the wild environment and can better protect themselves in this regard, experts said.

Statistics from the third national wild giant panda investigation show that there are 1,596 wild giant pandas in China mainly distributed in more than 40 nature reserves in Shaanxi, Sichuan and Gansu provinces.

(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, May 31, 2007)

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