Reintroduction Program – 2010

Phase 2

The years between 2007 and 2010 were spent carefully re-evaluating the reintroduction plan.  Scientists looked at the sex of the panda, the area where the pandas were to be released, whether to release males and females at the same time, the amount of time the pandas had spent in the program, and many other factors.

On June 20, 2010, CCRCGP of Wolong held a meeting in Dujiangyan to start “The 2nd Phase of the Captive Panda Wild Training Project”. Experts and management people in areas related to panda behavior, ecology, nutrition, genetics, disease prevention and control from all over China were invited to help with the overall planning, contents and goals, experiment methods, and selection of individual pandas for wild training etc.

It was agreed that pandas in the reintroduction program should have very limited contact with humans so that no dependence on an human “provider” would develop and fear of humans would.  This is when the plan to have humans wear panda suits when interacting with reintroduction pandas developed.


This marked the re-start of the Captive Panda Wild Training Project.  Unfortunately, the project was suspended after the devastation of the May 12th Earthquake in Wenchuan in 2008.

On July 20, 2010, CCRCGP transferred 4 pregnant pandas: Cao Cao, Zizhu, Ying Ping, and Zhang Ka to the Hetaoping Wild Training Base in Wolong.  These pandas were the official beginning of the 2nd Phase of the Captive Panda Wild Training Project.

On August 3, 2010 good news came from Hetaoping.  Giant panda Cao Cao had delivered a male cub weighing 205g. This was the first cub delivered in Wolong after the May 12th Earthquake in Wenchuan in 2008. He was also the first cub ever delivered in the wild training base globally without any assistance from humans. The birth of this cub not only marked a key step forward of the 2nd Phase of the Wolong Captive Panda Wild Training Project, but also gave great encouragement to the Wolong people for reconstruction of their homes.

On September 3, 2010, the cub of Cao Cao turned one month old. During that month, researchers had developed a long term plan for Cao Cao and her cub.

Young Tao Tao

The first part of the plan was to allow Cao Cao and her cub to live in a relatively simple environment to monitor the cub and see if he would survive without human intervention. Once the cub turned one month old, Cao Cao and the cub were released into the second phase of training. Any time the cub was handled researchers wore Panda suits covered in Panda feces to mask the smell of humans.

The cub now weighed 1235g which was about 6 times his birth weight. They were released into a new larger more diverse semi-wild environment with more challenges to find bamboo, water, and shelter.  This new semi-wild environment created more risk for the cub’s survival, but was an important and necessary step for the wild training of the cub.

Within the semi-wild training enclosure, 3 nests were built for Cao Cao and her cub. Cao Cao was born in the wild and had had delivered cubs previously.  She gradually adapted to the environment with her cub. By observing and monitoring Cao Cao and her cub’s behaviors 24 hours a day, researchers were able to collect vital information throughout this process. More than 100 cameras had been set up in the semi-wild enclosure to allow for monitoring.

CaoCao& Tao Tao

In order to let more panda fans witness the growth of this special panda cub, the Wolong CCRCGP launched a worldwide activity for naming the first cub born in the wild training base and invited panda fans to vote on CCRCGP’s official website to name Cao Cao’s cub. CCRCGP revealed the final selected name on its website officially naming him Tao Tao.