Two Pandas Prepare for Release Into the Wild

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Two giant pandas began wildlife training on Friday at "Panda Valley" in the Hongkou National Natural Reserve of Dujiangyan city in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The mother-daughter duo includes 15-year-old Panda mother "Qizhen" and her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter "Zhenzhen". The wildlife training will prepare them for eventually being freed into the wild.

Qizhen is an experienced mother who has given birth to eight cubs from 2006 to 2011 -- all twins -- with a survival rate of 100%.

Little Zhenzhen is very active and loves to climb. Her mother often gets upset when she climbs too high and pulls her down to reprimand her.

This was the first mother-child pair to begin wildlife training. Researchers say observing the relationship between the mother and child will help them improve the program, since a child must learn many important survival skills from its mother.

The location of "Panda Valley" was chosen for its rich vegetation and abundant water supply. There are also four different kinds of bamboo in the area, which is a panda's favorite food.

China put the first panda in captivity in 1953, and now boasts 341 captive-bred pandas. However, health problems are beginning to surface for the pandas due to inbreeding. Researchers say at least 100 of the 341 captive-bred pandas are now related.

China has decided to release some of the captive-bred pandas back into the wild to address this issue. Qizhen and Zhenzhen join six other pandas in "Panda Valley" who began their training in January.

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