The bamboo-chewing giant panda is one of the most iconic endangered animals in the world. In the Sichuan province of China, Earthwatch volunteers and scientists work up-close with pandas being cared for in captivity, then help them adapt to life in the wild, so that they may breed and live longer and healthier lives.
The long-term aim of this project is to create healthy, self-sustaining wild panda populations through the release of captive giant pandas.
The giant panda 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, this endangered species is limited to a few isolated mountain ranges in south-central China. Many surviving wild giant panda subpopulations have fewer than 50 individuals.
At the Ya'an Bifengxia panda base, volunteers help monitor mother pandas, panda births, and panda cubs. They prepare and deliver bamboo to the resident pandas, and help keep their living area clean. At the Wolong panda "wilderness training" base, volunteers record panda behavior in wilderness training and evaluate how prepared the cubs are to survive in the wild. (Some volunteers even don panda suits to keep the cubs from becoming too used to humans.) Wild panda populations are also monitored.
The long-term aim of this project, led by Earthwatch scientist Prof. Zhang Hemin, is to create healthy, self-sustaining wild panda populations through the release of captive giant pandas to strengthen small isolated populations of wild panda.