via press release:
NAT GEO WILD ANNOUNCES GIANT PANDAS —
THE AMAZING JOURNEY TO BREED AND RELEASE THIS ICONIC SPECIES INTO THE WILD
Giant Pandas Set to Premiere in August 2014 in the U.S. and in September 2014 Globally on Nat Geo WILD
(WASHINGTON, D.C.— MARCH 14, 2014) Nat Geo WILD announced today the one-hour special, Giant Pandas, set to premiere in August 2014 in the U.S. and globally in September 2014. The announcement was made by Geoff Daniels, executive vice president and general manager, Nat Geo WILD. The special marks a continued investment by the network in blue chip, natural history programming as part of its Destination Wild strand. The film will make its debut this weekend at the Sun Valley Film Festival, of which Nat Geo WILD is a founding sponsor.
The giant panda is one of the world’s most iconic bears. They are known for their black and white markings and loved for their doleful, bespectacled eyes, but they are also critically endangered. Now the race is on to save them from extinction.
“This film takes us inside the journey to breed pandas in captivity with the hope of releasing them into the wild to help this species survive,” said Daniels. “Panda population numbers have drastically decreased, making breeding programs around the world crucial to the future of this species.”
In the world-premiere special, Giant Pandas, Nat Geo WILD takes you on the incredible journey of breeding a panda in captivity, to its dramatic release into the wild. We will witness firsthand the groundbreaking initiative to increase the panda populations and raise awareness about this endangered species. The challenge has been great. Very little was known about the behavior and breeding patterns of these shy mountain creatures. Breeding them in captivity was initially a case of trial and error, but the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) is been determined.
Away from the tourist gaze, in the Bi Feng Xia Panda Center, scientists have observed pandas in the wild and developed strategies to encourage mating with great success. We follow along for the journey of female panda, Shui Xiu, to find a mate. After refusing her first chosen mate, she successfully mates with another. The team’s hard work pays off months later when they witness the birth of a newborn panda.
Once the breeding program has been proven to be effective, the center’s director, Zhang, attempts to raise the pandas using a groundbreaking wild training program where mother and child live just as they would in their a natural habitat in a closed-off enclosure, learning natural behaviors such as climbing. Combining lessons learned from observing wild pandas together with techniques as unorthodox as panda pornography, panda nannies and panda suit disguises, we hope to increase panda populations.
Our cameras follow along as Tao Tao goes through the wild training and is finally ready to be released into the wild. But before he can go he has to pass one final test: overcome a predator. By bringing in a leopard dummy complete with the urine smell so Tao Tao can sense a predator is nearby, he uses the skills his mother taught him to do exactly as he should — run away! He is now officially ready to be released into the Li Tzu Ping reserve where there is an abundance of bamboo. The media has gathered, and it is truly a historic and emotional event for Zhang and his team. A year after his release, Tao Tao’s GPS collar shows he is alive and well roaming across the mountains. Zhang hopes Tao Tao has found other pandas and will father a baby of his own.
Giant Pandas is produced by Oxford Scientific Films Production for Nat Geo WILD. Executive producers are Jeremy Bradshaw and Clare Birks. Creative Director is Caroline Hawkins. For Nat Geo WILD, senior vice president of production and development is Janet Han Vissering and EVP of programming and general manager is Geoff Daniels.