October 27, 2023 | Jamie Hayes

The Panda Cosplayers Preparing Cubs For The Wild

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In 2021, Chinese conservation authorities officially reclassified the giant panda from “endangered” to “vulnerable” thanks to decades of conservation efforts to preserve the species—but it hasn’t always been easy. Some conservationists have had to get creative.

In the past, conservationists have given male pandas Viagra and showed them videos of pandas mating to try and encourage reproduction—but the strategy employed by the keepers at Wolong National Reserve in China’s Sichuan province has to take the cake.

Part of the reason giant panda conservation has proven difficult is that their young are extremely vulnerable. A giant panda cub is born pink, blind, and toothless, weighing barely 100g—1/800th the size of its momma. It can’t even crawl for the first 80 days of its life, leaving it utterly defenseless.

Motherhood factsShutterstockFortunately, panda keepers can provide for these little furrballs—but this presents a new problem. Panda cubs who learn to rely on humans can not be safely reintroduced into the wild.

So in 2008, someone at the Wolong National Reserve came up with a simple solution: Panda suits. Whenever keepers at the reserve interact with the cubs, they don the suits. Worried about human scent? Don’t worry—the suits are covered in panda poop and pee.

The goal of the project is to have their pandas avoid humans once they’re reintroduced into the wild, and according to authorities at Wolong National Reserve, the suits have the desired effect. Despite being reared by human keepers, thanks to the suits, these panda cubs hide when they hear humans, rather than approaching them.

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