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China May Free Captive Pandas

A pilot program to release captive pandas will be launched by 2005, the China Daily reported. If a 10-year research program into panda breeding habits proves successful, Â"two or three giant pandas will be released into the wild each year,Â" the newspaper added.

But experts cautioned that the plan should be carried out carefully because captive pandas will need time to adjust to life in the wild.

Â"An abrupt change in living conditions could pose a threat to the giant panda,Â" Wang Wanmin, a Beijing Zoo official who has raised 20 giant pandas, was quoted as saying.

Only about 1,000 giant pandas survive in China, with fewer than 100 of them living in captivity.

Wang said captive pandas, which are used to being fed regularly and are often accustomed to and even affectionate toward humans, Â"should be slowly trained to regain their wild nature,Â" the newspaper reported.

Â"The pandas should be able to attack, protect and get food by themselves,Â" Wang said.

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