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Greenlit: Giant Pandas, Nat Geo WILD

Giant Pandas  (1 x 60′) – The giant panda is one of the world’s most iconic bears. They are known for their black and white markings and loved for their doleful, bespectacled eyes, but they are also critically endangered. Now the race is on to save them from extinction.

This documentary takes you on the incredible journey of breeding a panda in captivity, to its dramatic release into the wild. We will witness firsthand the groundbreaking initiative to increase the panda populations and raise awareness about this endangered species. The challenge has been great. Very little was known about the behavior and breeding patterns of these shy mountain creatures. Breeding them in captivity was initially a case of trial and error, but the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) is been determined.

Away from the tourist gaze, in the Bi Feng Xia Panda Center, scientists have observed pandas in the wild and developed strategies to encourage mating with great success. We follow along for the journey of female panda, Shui Xiu, to find a mate. After refusing her first chosen mate, she successfully mates with another. The team’s hard work pays off months later when they witness the birth of a newborn panda.

Once the breeding program has been proven to be effective, the center’s director, Zhang, attempts to raise the pandas using a groundbreaking wild training program where mother and child live just as they would in their a natural habitat in a closed-off enclosure, learning natural behaviors such as climbing. Combining lessons learned from observing wild pandas together with techniques as unorthodox as panda pornography, panda nannies and panda suit disguises, we hope to increase panda populations.

Our cameras follow along as Tao Tao goes through the wild training and is finally ready to be released into the wild. But before he can go he has to pass one final test: overcome a predator. By bringing in a leopard dummy complete with the urine smell so Tao Tao can sense a predator is nearby, he uses the skills his mother taught him to do exactly as he should — run away! He is now officially ready to be released into the Li Tzu Ping reserve where there is an abundance of bamboo. The media has gathered, and it is truly a historic and emotional event for Zhang and his team. A year after his release, Tao Tao’s GPS collar shows he is alive and well roaming across the mountains. Zhang hopes Tao Tao has found other pandas and will father a baby of his own.

Channel: Nat Geo WILD

Producer: Oxford Scientific Films

TX: August 2014

Source: Nat Geo press release (via TV by the Numbers)

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