In a panda first, a bear raised in captivity and then released into the wild has journeyed to a different protected reserve.
Zhang Xiang, who was also the first female loosed in the wild under China's breed-and-release program, was released into the Liziping Nature Reserve in 2013. Based on camera traps and feces, Zhang Xiang stayed in the Liziping Nature Reserve until at least January 2016. Somewhere between then and this past February, she made the trek into the Yele Nature Reserve as evidenced by these CCTV camera traps that spotted her sniffing up a tree marked by a male. Yele Nature Reserve is an adjacent sanctuary that has its own panda population.
Zhang Xiang's journey has conservationists excited.
"One of the early challenges to reintroducing captive pandas into the wild is to find areas that can support pandas but are not already in the territory of an existing panda," Colby Loucks, a panda expert at WWF, told National Geographic in an email. "This panda seems to have been able to navigate her way in the wild successfully."
Female pandas set up loose home ranges, but they will move in response their need for food, shelter or a mate. Lele Nature Reserve, according to a taped CCTV message from Zhang Hemin, director of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, has at least the first two in spades. Maybe there's an eligible male panda out there, too.