National Geographic photographers don hilarious panda costumes to document wildlife 'training'

Source:People's Daily Online Published: 2016/8/15 22:46:29 Last Updated: 2016/8/16 9:51:56

A series of photos taken by American photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Ami Vitale have recently gone viral online. The photos show foreign filmmakers, researchers and keepers at China's Wolong Nature Reserve "disguised" in panda suits in an area of the reserve where captive-bred bears are trained for life in the wild.

 

Director Nicolas Brown and Dr. M. Sanjayan, dressed as trees, wait with cameraman Robin Cox (dressed in a panda suit) to film a new series that will air next year on PBS. This picture is taken from Vitale's Pinterest account.


 

But are the panda cubs fooled by these panda costumes? That’s the hope at Wolong’s Hetaoping Center, where researchers have adopted the practice of wearing panda suits during their minimal contact with the animals. This picture is part of a story in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic.


 

At the Hetaoping Center, bears being trained to live in the wild are carefully isolated from humans. Even the caretakers who clean the animals’ cages wear costumes scented with urine to make them look and smell like pandas. This picture is from the August 2016 story in National Geographic.


 

Wolong keepers transport panda Hua Jiao for a health check before she finishes “wildlife training.” The habitat also protects red pandas, pheasants, tufted deer and other species that benefit from giant panda conservation. This picture is from a story in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic.


 

Keepers move a panda to a new part of the reserve as part of its training. Through the training, pandas learn to find their own food and water, look for shelter and become aware of their environment. This picture is from Vitale's Pinterest account.

As the pandas develop, they are moved to more complex environments to continue their training. This picture is from Vitale's Pinterest account.


 
 

Gao Xiaowen poses with the stuffed leopard that Wolong keepers use to train young pandas to fear their biggest wild foe. A cub’s reactions to the “predator” and its recorded growls help determine if the bear is ready to survive on its own. This picture goes with a story in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic.


 

In a large forested enclosure in the Wolong Reserve, panda keepers Ma Li and Liu Xiaoqiang listen for radio signals from a collared panda training to survive in the wild. Tracking tells them how the cub is faring in the rougher terrain up the mountain. This picture goes with a story in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic.


 

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