Zhang Xiang, the first female giant panda to be released into the wild in China, is still doing well after nearly six months on her own.

The young panda was born into captivity at the Wolong National Nature reserve in China’s Sichuan province. When she was two years old, panda experts met to discuss her release into the wild. They decided she could handle it because she was able to find food, water, and shelter by herself on a nature reserve base larger than 30 soccer fields.

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Zhang Xiang was kept in a cage for four days prior to her release, and though she clearly hated being in there, she was initially reluctant to leave. Eventually, she bolted off into the forest to live a life of freedom where she belongs.

Two pandas were released into the wild before Zhang Xiang, and not always with success. Xiang Xiang, a panda released from the same nature center in 2006, was found dead from injuries in early 2007. This sad event pushed handlers to revise their approach for preparing pandas to live in the wild, and it looks like their new strategies are working. Zhang Xiang has gained weight since her release, and the video shows she is adapting well to life in the wild, giving hope to other captive animals.

Currently, six other young pandas at Wolong are training for a reintroduction to the wild  in 2015. We look forward to celebrating their release!

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