Keepers don panda costumes
Wed, 10 Oct 2012 11:04p.m.
By Alice Carruthers
Keepers at a panda sanctuary in China have donned panda costumes to help convince the endangered animals to ditch the comforts of captivity for a new life in the wild.
But pandas are smarter than your average bear, so the keepers have to go to extraordinary lengths to smell like them too.
Life may seem fairly tranquil for two-year-old Taotao, but everything is about to change for the young panda.
Months of intensive re-wilding with keepers dressed as pandas have lead to this moment.
Deputy director of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre Li Desheng says the keepers are going to great lengths to prepare the pandas for release.
"We've tried our best to reduce human interference during Taotao's re-wilding training session. [His] feeders have to wear the specially-made panda suits when feeding him, so that Taotao won't know the ones who feed him are human beings, not giant pandas like himself. He can be very easily frightened on seeing human faces."
Now he's ready to be released, they just have to catch him first.
And the keepers have one more trick up their panda sleeves.
“Pandas have a very good sense organ for smelling and they can recognize humans by smelling, so we make ourselves smell the same as pandas,” Huang Yan, deputy chief engineer of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre says.
"We smear urine and faeces on our clothes to make them familiar with us."
Even so it still took four hours to coax Taotao into the cage, starting the final count-down before this captive-bred panda is released into the wild.
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