Panda conservationists don fursuits for species preservation
Experts from Wolong National Nature Reserve believe interaction with researchers in these goofy looking costumes may increase a panda cub’s chance of survival once introduced to the wild.
"Well, it's funny looking but hey, whatever works!" said one employee when asked of the outfits.
In 2006, the research team introduced a captive-born male cub into the wild, only to have it tragically rejected and killed by its free-roaming brethren, according to the Washington Post.
This time around, researchers are doing everything in their power to ensure a successful reintroduction of the giant panda. That includes, of course, dressing up in panda costumes whenever they come in contact with cubs, on the theory that if the baby panda is taught to associate with only pandas, it will develop the social skills it needs to adapt to the wild. The outfits are tailor made, down to the paws, which include small (but blunt) claws.
It may seem silly, but in fact it's a very serious effort. Wolong National Nature Reserve houses more than 150 highly-endangered giant pandas. The species is threatened by continued habitat loss, and by a very low birthrate, both in the wild and in captivity.
This is not the first time such suits have been used to aid pandas' re-integration into the wild. The technique has also been used with bobcats.
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They do this with cranes, too. But I think they just have an arm-puppet and a sheet thrown over their bodies.
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