The two-year-old female panda Xue Xue took her first steps into the “wild” at the Liziping Nature Reserve in Sichuan province today after being carefully lured out by staff members dressed in panda costumes.
After two years of training in habitat/food selection and natural enemy avoidance, researchers with the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas said that little Xue Xue was ready to leave the nest, and next month, another two-year-old female named Yin Yuan is expected to join her.
China began releasing captive-bred pandas in 2006, starting with a five-year-old male panda named Xiang Xiang who died roughly a year later.
In 2012, a panda male named Tao Tao was released into Liziping and about a year later, the first female named Zhang Xiang took her first steps out into the semi-wild at Liziping.
Researchers dress up in suits during the send-off in an effort to reduce human contact and prepare the animal for the wild.
We can’t help but sense that Xue Xue is fully aware of the human presence.
[Images via ECNS]