The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is threatened by restricted and degraded habitat, and their reliance on bamboo for food. Habitat destruction has led to populations of panda becoming small and isolated. At present, the endangered species are limited to a few isolated mountain ranges in south-central China. Many surviving wild giant panda subpopulations have fewer than 50 individuals.
The China Conservation and Research Center for The Giant Panda (CCRCGP) owns both Ya'an Bifengxia panda base, where you'll work on this expedition, and the Wolong National Nature Reserve wilderness training site. Together, these two spots host the largest captive panda population in the world. Panda reintroduction training research has been carried out by CCRCGP since 2004. The Ya'an Bifengxia panda base currently has more than 80 captive giant pandas, but only about 20 female giant pandas are at a breeding age. There are currently eight pandas at the Wolong panda base, and it's planned that more will be transferred here from Ya'an Bifengxia panda base.
The long-term aim of this project is to create healthy, self-sustaining wild panda populations through the release of captive giant pandas to strengthen small isolated populations of wild pandas.
Meet the Scientists
Prof. Zhang Hemin
Earthwatch scientist Professor Zhang Hemin is director of the Wolong Special Administrative Region in Wenchuan, the administrator of the Wolong National Nature Reserve, and the director of CCRCGP. His work is focused on the study and conservation of the giant panda. Since 1989, Prof. Zhang has overcome tremendous technical difficulties related to captive panda breeding and has improved the natural mating rate of pandas and the panda cub survival rate. Prof. Zhang is currently researching the reintroduction of captive pandas and the control of panda epidemic diseases. He has published more than 50 research papers in scientific journals. The many results of his research include the successful breeding of 134 pandas. Prof. Zhang won the May 1st National Labor Model in 2007 (China's highest award for the outstanding contribution of professionals at a national level).