Nature – Pandas: Born to be Wild

Air date: 10/21/2020

Nature – Pandas: Born to be Wild

Wednesday, October 21 at 8 pm (check local listings)pbs.org/nature and the PBS Video app 

Synopsis: 
The Giant Panda may be one of the most recognizable endangered species on our planet, but the daily lives of wild pandas remain a mystery, until now. Filming over three years, two Chinese cinematographers trek through the steep forested trails of the Qinling Mountains to catch a glimpse of wild pandas. With the help of scientists and rangers on this journey, they capture startling new wild panda behavior on screen. Unlike the playful image of captive pandas, wild pandas are solitary and territorial. The film crew also follows the training of a young panda born in captivity learning to be a panda in the wild. 

Running Time: 60 minutes 

Buzzworthy Moments: 

  • A young cub in the Wolong Panda Center, born to his mother through artificial insemination, will spend three years in a large enclosure in the reserve, separate from all other pandas and humans. He is being trained to be introduced into the wild when he reaches three years old. Under the guidance of his mother, he learns crucial skills such as climbing trees and exploration, although there is still a risk that he will become too attached to his mother
  • The mating and courtship rituals of wild Giant Pandas have never been filmed before. The filmmakers trek alongside park rangers in the Qinling Mountains to track down a male during breeding season and eventually stumble on an exceedingly rare sight – fertile female being fought over by two males. To succeed in courting the female, the males must win against their rival as well as a tussle with the female herself. This behavior sheds light on why breeding captive pandas is so difficult – the roaring, scentmarking and fighting are most likely what triggers her ovulation – conditions very difficult to replicate out of the wild.  
  • Since they are raising the young cub to never meet humans, the caretakers at the Wolong Panda Center come up with an unusual solution to perform health checkups on the cub. The workers dress up in panda costumes and even mask their scent with panda urine. The cub, with its poor eyesight, is left none the wiser.  
  • The majority of the panda cubs living in the Wolong Panda Center are extremely playful and social with their fellow pandas and caretakers. This is different behavior from pandas in the wild, who are mostly solitary creatures. It is still a mystery why captive pandas are more social than wild pandas. 

Noteworthy Facts: 

  • There are only around 2,000 Giant Pandas left in the world today. Although they are members of the bear family, pandas do not hibernate and therefore must keep feeding even throughout the winter months. 
  • Bamboo is a panda’s main food source; however, it does not provide much nutrition. In order to maintain their energy, they must eat bamboo up to 14 hours each day.  
  • The milk in a Giant Panda mother contains more antibodies than any other animal, because cubs are born incredibly vulnerable and underdevelopedFemales can only have 3-4 young in their lifetime, the lowest birth rate of any mammal. 

Long TV Listing:
Unlock the mysteries of wild pandas whose counterparts in captivity are known for their gentle image. Journey through the steep Qinling Mountains with filmmakers, scientists and rangers to witness pandas’ startling courtship and aggression behaviors. 

Short TV Listing:
Trek though the steep Qinling Mountains with filmmakers to witness wild pandas’ startling behavior. 

Series Overview:
Nature is a voice for the natural world, bringing the wonders of wildlife and stories of conservation to millions of American viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 19 Emmys and three Peabody Awards. Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For NatureFred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor. 

Production Credits:
Nature – Pandas: Born to be Wild is co-production of Terra Mater Factual Studios and Mark Fletcher Productions in association with THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. The documentary is produced and filmed by Jacky Poon and Yuanqi Wu and is written and edited by Mark Fletcher. Andrea Gastgeb and Sabine Holzer are Executive Producers for Terra Mater Factual Studios. Shanghai Science & Technical Museum and Jacky Poon provided archival footage. Chris Morgan is narrator.    

Underwriters:
Support for this episode is provided by The Arnhold Family in memory of Henry and Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, The Fairweather Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Charles Rosenblum, Sandra Atlas Bass, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, The Hite Foundation, Doris R. and Robert J. Thomas, The Sun Hill Family Foundation in memory of Susan and Edwin Malloy, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public television viewers. 

Websites:
pbs.org/naturefacebook.com/PBSNaturetwitter.com/PBSNatureinstagram.com/pbsnatureyoutube.com/naturepbstiktok.com/@pbsnature#NaturePBS 

About WNET
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including NatureGreat PerformancesAmerican MastersPBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

Photos
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Six-month-old panda cub up in a tree, waiting for its mother to return from her bamboo feeding grounds. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Three-year-old Giant Panda up a tree. Wolong, China. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Three-year-old Giant Panda and his mother in Wolong Panda Center. No longer a teenager, he will need to fend for himself in the wilderness. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Three-month-old Giant Panda at Wolong Panda Center, who was trained for reintroduction in the wilderness of the Qinling Mountains. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Wolong Panda Center keeper disguised as a panda. The keepers dress as pandas to visit the youngsters, which are candidates for the reintroduction program. Human contact is kept to a minimum. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Giant Panda feeding on bamboo. Bamboo provides only just enough energy for pandas to live, which is why they eat for 14 hours a day. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Giant Panda mother and her one-month-old cub. Wolong Panda Center, China. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Filmmaker Jacky Poon on the search for a wild panda. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions

Filmmaker Yuanqi Wu on the search for a wild panda. Credit: Jacky Poon, © Terra Mater Factual Studios + Mark Fletcher Productions