Pandas are undoubtedly one of the world’s cutest species and I’ve always thought that being a panda researcher would be one of the best jobs one could hope to do. Researchers at the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Centre are doing little to dispel that thought.
On first glance, I thought they were photos from some weird Chinese reality TV show, but actually they are photos documenting an essential part of China’s ambitious strategy to reintroduce captive-bred Giant Pandas back into the wild. The researchers are suggesting that for the baby panda to be successfully reintroduced into nature, no human influence must enter the cub’s environment, otherwise it may get too tame. A previously re-introduced panda named Xiang xiang was found dead just 10 months after being released in the wild, having been killed by other wild pandas.
So the researchers’ new strategy is to don panda suits when they take the captivity-born cubs for a medical examination, so that they do not get used to the human form.
What the baby pandas are making of this is anybody’s guess. Perhaps this particular cub has picked up on the general stench of human or the fleshy human paw poking out from under the costume of its “kidnapper”, or maybe it hasn’t…