Postcard: Wolong

China is breeding pandas and releasing them into the wild. But with feral populations growing, why put captive bears under so much stress? Inside China's tough-love panda plan


Giant pandas rest at the Wolong Panda Research Center in the southwest China's Sichuan province.

Hua Mei just wants to be left alone. But a couple of scientists at the Wolong Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda keep poking her with long bamboo poles. Hua Mei, who is in heat and (biologically, at least) ready to mate, gets another prod, pushing her in the direction of the neighboring cage where her putative partner, Wu Gong, is watching with placid indifference. Hua Mei reluctantly decides to cooperate and, raising her tail, pads delicately backward toward Wu Gong. The male panda takes one look at her proffered hindquarters and scoots over to the far corner of...

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