Researchers dressed as giant pandas prepare panda cub for the wild in Chinese reserve
At the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in China's famous Wolong Nature Reserve, this 4-month-old cub is something of a pioneer, and the human researcher in a panda suit is helping to prepare him for life in the wild.
The captive-bred cub is being prepared for his eventual release through a new program conceived by panda researchers working to increase the endangered species' numbers in the wild.
For the program to be successful, the cub must be prevented from "imprinting" on his human caretakers or developing too much dependence on people. (We wonder if a similar aim could be achieved by allowing the cubs to be raised by dogs trimmed and dyed to resemble pandas.)
The researchers released four pregnant pandas into a protected area monitored by hidden cameras this year, according to the Telegraph; the cub in the photo above was born to one of those mothers. When the researchers must come into close contact with him -- to take his temperature or give him a veterinary checkup, for example -- they do so only when clad in full-body panda costumes.
If anyone knows where one can fill out an application for panda-costume-wearing cub-sitter, please clue us in! This sounds like the best job in the world, perhaps tied only with Professional Island Caretaker. See more photos of the cub and his fake-panda caretakers after the jump!
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-- Lindsay Barnett
1st-3rd photos: Reuters
4th-5th photos: Associated Press