CHINA — (PANDA PICTURES) With only a few thousand giant pandas in existence, every precaution is taken to successfully release captive-born pandas into the wild. Even if it means dressing up in a panda costume to prevent the baby pandas from becoming accustomed to humans. Why the “panda-ring”? Previous attempts to release pandas into the wild weren’t successful, so researchers hope this new plan will prevent further tragedy in the quest to rebuild the panda population. We applaud this funny, and serious, plan! — Global Animal
Paw Nation, Josh Loposer
Look carefully — only one of the pandas pictured is actually a panda. Wildlife researchers in China’s Sichuan province have been suiting up in their best panda costumes, but not because they’re part of a nature-themed children’s show. Instead, these researchers are using their clever disguises to prevent captive-born pandas from identifying with humans.
Chinese panda experts believe that the goofy-looking costumes may actually increase a panda cub’s chances of survival when it’s introduced into the wild. In 2006, according to The Washington Post, the research team introduced a captive-born male cub into the wild only to have it tragically rejected and killed by its free-roaming brethren.
This time around, researchers are doing everything in their power to ensure a successful introduction of the 4-month-old cub pictured above. That includes, of course, dressing up in panda costumes whenever they come in contact with the cute little guy. If the baby panda is taught to associate with only pandas, perhaps it will develop the social skills it needs to adapt to the wild.
The costume approach seems reasonable enough, and we are for anything that helps these creatures survive in the wild. Though we hope the researchers are also doused in their best panda-scented perfume.