2017 Photo Contest, Nature, 2nd prize

Ami Vitale

National Geographic

21 April, 2015

Panda keepers Ma Li and Liu Xiaoqlang listen for radio signals from a collared panda, in training to be released into the wild, in a forested enclosure of the Wolong reserve, Sichuan, China. Tracking can indicate how the cub is faring in the rougher terrain up the mountain.

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 the photographer

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
Focal length
24.0 mm
Nikon D4S

This image is collected in