2017 Photo Contest, Nature, Stories, 2nd prize
Photographer

Ami Vitale

National Geographic

10 February, 2016

Three-month-old cubs sleep in the panda nursery at the Bifengxia panda base, Sichuan, China. Keepers reduce the load on bears that have twins by caring for one of the cubs for a while, and then swapping it for the other.

Once endangered, the giant panda is now considered vulnerable, meaning at lower risk of extinction. China’s efforts to eliminate poaching and to protect the panda’s habitat played a large role in increasing numbers. Two-thirds of the world’s wild pandas live in nature reserves in the bamboo-rich forests above the Sichuan Basin. The original decline of the species was attributed in part to the disappearance of bamboo, the panda’s principle food, as forests were converted to farmland. China’s restoration of the animal’s habitat has led to an increase in geographic range, and animals bred in captivity are now being reintroduced to the wild. Pandas living in captivity need to undergo training to learn how to cope in the wild. The China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda oversees three panda bases in Sichuan, dedicated to reintroducing the bears to nature: Bifengxia, Dujiangyan and Wolong.

About

Ami Vitale

She has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.” She is an Ambassador for Nikon and...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
1/100
Focal length
24.0 mm
F-Stop
3.5
ISO
500
Camera
Nikon D4S

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