National Geographic | July 2016
Giant panda cubs are adorable fluff balls that squeak and squeal. This endangered species is also incredibly tricky to breed and raise in captivity. In the 1960s, only 30 percent of infant pandas born at breeding centers survived. Today 90 percent survive. So, what changed? In the last 20 years, China has successfully tackled three of the biggest problems holding the giant panda back. Through research and experimentation, researchers at China's breeding centers have discovered how to encourage captive pandas to mate, how to make sure the pregnancy is successful, and how to keep the panda cubs alive once they've been born. More recently, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda has made another breakthrough: It’s the only center in the world to successfully breed pandas and then release them into the wild. Five pandas have been released since 2006, though two have died. Before release, the pandas must go through a series of trials meant to test their abilities to survive in the wild, while avoiding human interference as much as possible. China's dedication to panda research is leading the rest of the globe in panda conservation.