Giant pandas in the wild are remote, solitary creatures. We don't know enough about them and how they interact with each other and their environment. With our innovative reintroduction method, we have the unique ability to study our pandas after release. As the film Pandas shows, wildlife reintroduction is important, but also risky. Our scientists want to do everything possible to protect against those risks. As we learn more from each cub’s experience, we can improve our ability to help them survive in the wild.
The Chengdu Research Base (CRB) has brought visionary leadership and extensive experience to this reintroduction project. Under its direction, our international science team is working to reestablish self-sustaining giant panda populations across their native range. There is a great deal to do, but we are making great progress.
Human Assisted Soft-Release Method
In adapting and refining our assisted soft-release methodology for pandas, we constantly assess the progress, health, and success of each panda in our program. Using a hypothesis-driven approach, we test factors that promote certain wild behaviors or activities in each cub. We will then monitor the cub’s success post-release. We collect quantitative data on behavior, movements, and health, to be supplemented with direct observations made when we interact with the pandas in nature. This should allow us to improve how we help the pandas adapt and survive once released.
Our team relies on technology to enhance our post-release monitoring efforts. We use a variety of traditional passive monitoring techniques as well as “old-fashioned” reconnaissance by our field research teams. By employing various monitoring techniques, we improve the efficiency of our efforts and can collect a wealth of data on panda movements and behavior in the wild.
Giant Panda Metabolism
Our team also has been studying the physiological ecology of the giant panda. By measuring the metabolic cost of activity of pandas under natural conditions, and the amount of food (bamboo) available in their natural environment, we can calculate how many animals can live in a given area. This information helps to inform our reintroduction strategies, and increases our knowledge about the unique physiology of this herbivorous carnivore.
Our CRB field research teams have been surveying possible reintroduction sites to assess safety and habitat suitability. We want to identify and address any potential threats posed to pandas in their new homes before they are released. As part of these surveys, we try to determine optimal areas for release and learn more about the overall biodiversity in these nature reserves. This baseline information will be valuable in understanding the preferences and habitat usage of our pandas after release.