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Giant Panda to Return to Wild in Sichuan
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The first giant panda that has received survival training will be released into the wild this year, sources with the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center said.


Xiang Xiang, the giant panda bred in captivity, was first released by the center in July 2003 as part of the training program. It proved successful as the panda recovered some of its weakened natural instincts.


Xiang Xiang will return to nature in the Choushuigou area in the Wolong Nature Reserve, southwestern Sichuan Province, the source said.


Experts will track the giant panda over an area of 35 square kilometers at an altitude of 2,300-3,400 meters with a GPS (global positioning system) necklace and a radio for two years after its return to nature.


Yang Dongsheng, director of the Sichuan Forestry Bureau, said that the purpose of the program is to improve the genetic diversity and quality of the species.


Xiang Xiang is now able to find food with the correct nutrients, look for drinking water and cope with dangers, experts said.


The Wolong Giant Panda Research Center was established in 1980 with the aim of enlarging the population of giant pandas and conserving them in the wild.


(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2006)

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