The purpose of these research bases, also called the transfer protection of the giant pandas, is to enlarge the captive breeding population by the study of artificial panda breeding and upgrading the management of their nurture. The artificially bred pandas will return to nature finally to complement and expand the wild population. Therefore, the bases are supporting, supplementing and promoting the giant panda’s habitat protection project.
China has two major panda research stations, as well as important research program at the Beijing Zoo and academic institutions. Perhaps the most famous research base is the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, lying in the Wolong Nature Reserve and under the jurisdiction of the State Forestry Administration. Established in the early 1980s, the center has made tremendous progress in captive breeding techniques. There are more than 40 pandas in captivity in the center, accounting for 30 percent of the total amount of captive pandas in the world. The center has artificially bred 31 fetuses, with 50 babies produced, of which 37 survived. Among them, six fetuses, totaling 12 babies were born in 2000, and 11 survived.
Most of the giant pandas in the center in Wolong stay individually in cages, which are in fact large enclosures, each consisting of an in-door room and an out-door courtyard. Those giant pandas about to be released back to the wild will be put in semi-nature enclosures for a long enough period for them to adapt to the natural environment. The semi-nature enclosures are very large wild areas, but protected by border fences. Although food has to be provided, the giant pandas will sleep there, eat there and recover their natural survival skills until they can be released back to the wild.
Another major panda research base is the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base, which operates under the authority of the Ministry of Construction. The base has many kinds of enclosures simulating the wild natural environment for the adult giant panda, sub-adult giant panda, baby giant panda and lesser panda and other animals respectively. Up to 2000, the base has artificially bred 40 fetuses, totaling 61 babies, of which 32 survived. In 1995, the base was honored by the United Nations Environment Development Organization in its list of “Global Top 500.”