As panda-monium sweeps the nation with keepers at Edinburgh Zoo on twenty-four hour cub watch over the UK’s only female giant panda, Sky 3D and Nat Geo Wild is to air a ground-breaking natural history film Pandas – Back to the Wild.
Narrated by Joely Richardson, Pandas – Back to the Wild offers a touching look at the work of panda breeders and conservationists in Western China at a critical time in the species’ history.
A remarkable conservation story, the documentary explores the conception and birth of panda cubs, born pink, blind and weighing less than an apple. Witness how they develop, play and create bonds with their keepers, all the while under the careful scrutiny of vets and wildlife scientists at Bifengxia Panda Base.
The breeding programme at Bifengxia Panda Base has been so successful experts are now working towards returning this highly-endangered species to the wild. But pandas born in captivity don’t know how to survive in the wild and in 2006, a captive panda born and raised at Bifengxia was released into the wild and tragically found dead a year later, killed by predators or other wild pandas.
Determined not to let the same happen again, conservationists have developed an elaborate and lengthy programme of ‘wild training’ based in Wolong, a former breeding centre that was partially destroyed by the devastating 2008 earthquake which now serves as a stepping stone to life in the wild. Isolated and cut off from human development, keepers dressed in panda suits and rubbed with panda scent prepare young male Tao Tao for life on his own, ensuring he can source his own food and water and that he recognises deadly predators.
When he is ready, he’ll be released into a remote reserve where the panda population has dwindled to just 13. It is hoped he will create a new bloodline among this tiny group and help to ensure the future of his dying species.
With only 1,600 pandas left in the wild, this documentary places the viewer at the heart of the race to save these charismatic creatures, revealing China’s extraordinary efforts to save them from extinction and offering a captivating insight into their behaviour.
Pandas – Back to the Wild premieres at 8pm on Sunday 22nd September on Sky 3D and in 2D on Nat Geo Wild