BEIJING (Reuters) - The world’s only artificially bred panda living in the wild has fallen to its death less than a year after it was released, possibly after a fight with other pandas, Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.
Xiang Xiang, 5, was released at the Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas in the mountainous southwestern province of Sichuan in April last year.
“Experts found the body of Xiang Xiang on February 19 and the panda might have fallen from a high place in a fight with wild pandas,” Xinhua said, citing the China Giant Pandas Protection and Research Centre in Wolong.
Xiang Xiang’s release came after nearly three years of training to toughen him up at the research centre.
“Through surveillance we found out that Xiang Xiang had gradually adapted to the wild environment,” Zhang Hemin, director of the centre, said in July.
“We have also detected other wild pandas in the area, which means Xiang Xiang is being integrated into a wild population.”
Researchers had fitted a global positioning system device around the animal’s neck to monitor his activities, CCTV said.
Surveillance of Xiang Xiang was to have continued until 2008 when the GPS hoop was to drop off automatically after its battery ran out, Zhang said.
“By then, our Xiang Xiang will have become a real wild panda.”
Experts had studied his choice of territory, his meals and waste, but strictly avoided direct contact so as to help him completely shake off dependence on humans, CCTV said.
State media said in July China had raised about 180 giant pandas in captive breeding programs and spent $12.5 million since 2003 training them for release into the wild.
The giant panda is one of the world’s most endangered species and is found only in China. An estimated 1,000 live in Sichuan and in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces in the northwest.