Pandodyssey™ Panda Blog

This is a blog devoted to Giant Panda enthusiasts, environmental wanna-bes and peace loving funimals, world-wide.

Monday, May 01, 2006

country road, take me home

A First! Giant Panda Is Released Into the Wild!

First panda born in captivity freed

Xiang Xiang was released into the wild on April 28, the first ever captive-born giant panda to be released into the wild. The four-year-old male has undergone an extensive three-year survival training program, one that is aimed at helping captive-born and human raised pandas hone their natural instincts and survive on their own in the wild.

Though gone, Xiang Xiang (whose name means 'auspicious') won't soon be forgotten. His progress and survival are of keen interest to scientists, conservationists (and pandologists!) everywhere, as evidence of successful conservation and restoration efforts. Xiang Xiang's every step will be scrutinzed and analyzed by researchers at The Panda Center at Wolong Nature Reserve, his former home. He sports a collar with a satellite tracking device so that his movements can be monitored 24/7. Hey guys, how about a cam??

"Xiang Xiang was selected from more than 100 giant pandas bred in captivity for natural habitat training, mostly because he was strong and healthy, said experts.

"He learned how to build a den, forage for food and mark his territory, and developed defensive skills by howling and biting, said Zhang Hemin, head of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center.

"Xiang Xiang is like my child who has grown up and left the family to live independently," said Liu Bin, who helped look after him for three years. "I hope he can survive on his own without forgetting me," said Liu who turned away with tears in his eyes.

Inspiring guy, this Liu Bin of the Wolong Reserve. I've blogged about him before...

Which reminds me that I've been finding inspiration in the oddest of places. (Namely China at this point, bwahahaha). Last night I caught on PBS a show about China's cuisines and the daunting struggle to feed 1 billion+ mouths. For a population that size, food has come to represent many different ideas in Chinese culture, most notably here as a symbol of wealth. This show told the stories of the oresent day Chinese peasants. For centuries they lived off the land, farming and fishing, living the simplest of lives, neither getting rich nor starving.

Over the past decades, rapid industrialization in China's large cities has been a much needed and necessary boon to the country's economy, but has also resulted in China's reaching ever deeper for scarcer ans scarcer resources. On the local level throughout China, environmental concerns are pushed aside in favor of 'progress".

As a result, the poorest peasants who were already living on the margins of survival, are paying the ultimate price for industrialization and globalization. They are unable to sustain themselves as they once had, and slowly are giving up the country life to seek out factory jobs in large cities. River waters downstream from many factories are polluted and toxic. Thus, they are unable to fish waters that once provided them with both food and income. They are unable to irrigate crops with polluted water, and so wholly depend on rain fall for their yield. Village by village, one by one, they migrate to the cities, not by choice, only to survive. Once the stewards of the land, the peasant population is now dwindling due to starvation and migration. Of those who choose to stay, attempting to scratch out a living off the land is hardship enough. But having no clout or voice in dealing with the local governments or corporations makes survival nearly impossible.

The PBS show followed two Chinese attorneys who are trying to help both the peasants and the environment. It was simultaneously depressing and awe-inspiring, watching these two attorneys, dogged in their efforts for little reward because they believe so strongly in their mission, prosecuting environmental cases against multi-national corporations and, at times, against the mighty Chinese government.

In the way of "research" (give me a break, I am at work) the CIA World Factbook reports China's current environmental concerns as including: air pollution (greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide particulates) from reliance on coal produces acid rain; water shortages, particularly in the north; water pollution from untreated wastes; deforestation; estimated loss of one-fifth of agricultural land since 1949 to soil erosion and economic development; desertification.

Desertification, now there's a lovely word! : /


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