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Posts Tagged ‘whisperer’

Photo: Drew Fellman
Ben Kilham, of the Kilham Bear Center in New Hampshire, seen with a giant panda at Panda Valley in Dujiangyan, China, in the  IMAX film Pandas. Oh, to be that guy at that moment!

I loved the picture above and thought I’d like to have that kind of connection to a Giant Panda. But as Cristela Guerra reports at the Boston Globe, if you work with pandas, you learn that they have a strong bite for chomping bamboo and you should expect to get bitten.

Guerra starts with the backstory of a promising new research effort. “In New Hampshire, Ben Kilham’s work with black bears has earned him a couple of nicknames, including ‘the bear whisperer’ or simply ‘Papa Bear.’

“In Chengdu, China, Hou Rong’s research into giant pandas has earned her a nickname as well: ‘Panda Mom.’

“Their cross-cultural collaboration is the focus of a new documentary called ‘Pandas,’ [which opened] at the New England Aquarium on April 6. …

” ‘Pandas’ presents breathtaking, panoramic views of China around the mountains of Sichuan where the nonprofit Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding is located. There, a group of scientists raise endangered giant pandas in captivity with the hope that one day they’ll be able to introduce them into the wild.”

Kilham’s techniques, honed with black bears in New Hampshire, “involve taking captive-born bear cubs for walks through the woods, where they follow Kilham like a mother bear. …

” ‘That’s what the mother bear does; she is their protecting force,’ Kilham said of the training method. ‘For pandas, it works the same way.’ …

” ‘I had trouble learning in school,’ Kilham says in the documentary. ‘But I could read nature the way other people read books. I don’t teach bears how to be bears. The knowledge is already inside them.’ …

“Inspired by Kilham’s techniques, the scientists at the Panda Base begin to test the abilities of captive-born panda cubs to see if one has what it takes for a journey into the wild. This means a whole lot of footage of adorable, roly poly baby pandas being bottle-fed, pushed down a wooden slide, and wrestling with researchers. …

“ ‘For bringing a captive-born animal whose mom is also captive-born, whose grandparents are also captive-born into the wild, my biggest consideration is [the panda’s] vigilance.” said [wildlife conservation biologist Jake] Owens. ‘How alert they are, how aware they are about potential dangers.’ …

“ ‘All young animals need to have is some sort of mother figure,’ Kilham said. ‘What you’re giving the cubs is an opportunity to learn. If you just put them out there by themselves, they’re unable to go anywhere.’ ”

More here. And check out the movie trailer here.

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