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Interviews: Giant Panda Released to the Wild

Friday is a big day for one of the most charismatic animals on Earth: the giant panda. Native to central China, the black-and-white bear was almost driven to extinction before a conservation program began 40 years ago.

The main thrust of that program was breeding the animals in captivity. On Friday, for the first time ever, Chinese researchers successfully released a panda born and raised in captivity back into the wild.

After some prodding the adult male bear, named Xiang Xiang, lumbered up a hillside and into a stand of sheltering bamboo -- the giant panda's primary diet in the wild. He carries with him the hopes for the survival of the species.

For the ongoing series of Radio Expeditions interviews on Day to Day, Zhang Hemin, the director of the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center in Sichuan Province, China, talks about the historic event.

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Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.
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