World’s only artificially bred panda has fallen to its death less than a year after it was released in the wild, Chinese news agency, Xinhua said. The cause of death is not yet clear, though fingers point towards a possible fight with other pandas.
Experts found the body of Xiang Xiang on February 19 and the panda might have fallen from a high place in a fight with wild pandas,
the news agency said.
In April last, the panda, Xiang Xiang, was released after nearly three years of training to toughen him up at the research centre. The Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas in the mountainous southwestern province of Sichuan was its new home.
Researchers had fitted a global positioning system device around the animal’s neck to monitor his activities. Specialists were closely studying his choice of territory, his meals and waste, but avoided any direct contact in order to help him completely shake off dependence on humans and become self-dependent like other wild pandas. The surveillance of the animal would have continued until 2008, when the GPS hoop was to fall off automatically after its battery ran out. And at that time, Xiang Xiang would have transformed into a real wild panda. Unfortunately, its death has dashed all such hopes.
China boasts of being the habitat or the endangered giant panda. Nearly 1,000 live in Sichuan and in Shaanxi and Guangzu provinces in the northwest. In July alone, China had raised around 180 such species in captive breeding programs and has spent over $12.5 million since 2003 training them for release into the wild.