Al Jazeera highlight: Saving China's Pandas

Saving China's Pandas

In the remote mountains of western China, a team of rangers embarks on a desperate search. Battling freezing temperatures and unforgiving terrain, they're hunting for evidence of China's wild pandas, and for the first time, they've allowed outsiders to join them. In Saving China's Pandas, Al Jazeera's 101 East gets the rare chance to see where wild pandas live.

"The Baishuijiang Reserve is home to an estimated 110 pandas - more than anywhere else in the world," says 101 East presenter and senior reporter Steve Chao. "Getting to see where these amazing creatures live was an incredible experience. In many ways, this ground zero in the fight to not only save pandas, but endangered species worldwide."

Pandas may have been recently taken off the endangered list, but their survival is far from certain. China's frenetic development means their habitat continues to shrink at a rapid rate, despite the government's stated commitment to saving this iconic species.

101 East meets He Liwen and his team of rangers, guardians of the Baishuijiang Reserve. Mr He, who has spent the last 20 years working to protect pandas, has lost some of his men to this harsh environment. He has a love-hate relationship with the pandas he is tasked with protecting. "In order to find them, to see them, to film them, we have paid so much in tears, sweat, and even blood," he says.

While Mr He and his rangers risk their lives searching for footprints and evidence of panda activity, tourists are flocking to breeding centres across China. The furry black and white creatures have become a huge tourist attraction, drawing in millions of animal lovers. But some experts worry that breeding pandas in captivity is more about making a profit than protecting the species.

Meanwhile, Mr He, the wildlife ranger, fears that big business could also sound the death knell for the pandas under his protection. As new developments continue to intrude onto the reserve, eating up more of the panda's habitat, their battle to survive is becoming increasingly desperate.

Saving China's Pandas screens on Al Jazeera English on Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 1830 CAT. After it airs, the documentary will be available on YouTube and http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/. For more information, follow 101 East on Twitter on @AJ101East and Facebook at 101East - Al Jazeera.

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