On October 2, 1993, the first snow fell on Taibai county located deep in the Qinling Mountains of Shaanxi province. That afternoon the forest bureau received a report that a sick panda was found in the Niuwei River village and one of the residents had the animal in a corn shack. Ren Jianshe, manager of the local wild animal protection station, immediately organized a rescue team and departed for the corn. shack, 20km from his location.
When Ren’s team arrived, they found the panda was extremely weak. Immediately they provided the approximately 3-5 year-old female panda with a medical examination, and discovered she was highly emaciated, weighing only 43kg. Ticks covered her body, her nose was dry, and her eyes dull. After a dose of deworming medication, the panda excreted copious amounts of roundworms in very dry feces. The veterinarian thought the symptoms indicated gastroenteritis.
The news of a sick panda shocked everybody in this small county. The county’s government party committee paid close attention to this situation and held a meeting to discuss the treatment plan and the naming of the giant panda. The panda was found in an area called Taibai, meaning “pure
white” in Chinese and it was snowing the day she was discovered. The name “White Snow” was
deemed a perfect match for this panda and her beauty and gentleness transformed the name to
Bai Xue, meaning “Snow White” in Chinese.
After a year’s treatment by Shaanxi Louguantai Rare Animal Protection Center in Zhouzhi county, Bai Xue became more beautiful and her weight increased to a healthy 95kg. On September16, 1994, Bai Xue was borrowed by Shangfang Mountain Forest Park, Suzhou city Jiangsu province for a short time to celebrate their anniversary.
Bai Xue’s 81 Days Flight in Suzhou city
At that time Bai Xue resided her new home in Suzhou. Unfortunately due to a lack of experience,the new house’s fence was not properly constructed for a giant panda, making it very easy to escape.Just two days alter the park was opened to the public, Bai Xue scared by the immense crowds of visitors, escaped and ran into the forested hills behind the park.
Tourists were utterly shocked by Bai Xue’s behavior and the veterinarians had to tell them to calm down as many became overexcited and attempted to chase the runaway panda. The veterinarians also stated that the panda was harmless and they should give her some space, while directing the park staff to place her Favorite milk,bananas, and apples on the trail to entice her back.Following the veterinarian’s advice, park staff laid hundreds of meters of a food trail for Bai Xue to foIlow they called her name, but it was all in vain. The next day the local police used a search and rescue dog to help find Bai Xue, but this option also failed.
News headlines of”Bai Xue Has Disappeared!”quickly became the talk of the town. The runaway panda incident caught the attention of the State Forestry Administration and the government of Suzhou city. They organized a search and rescue team of thousands of people, led by a deputy major and a secretary-general of the local government. Every ten meters there was a team member. Inch by inch they searched the surrounding areas For the whole day but there was still no sign of Bai Xue.
The leader of Shaanxi Rare Animal Protection Center rushed to Suzhou.
Suzhou appeared to be the perfect hiding place fora runaway panda. The location Bai Xue bid, Shangfang Mountain, was covered with arrow bamboo that had been planted 10 years previously
It was an ideal hiding spot for a panda. Shangfang Mountain is surrounded by roads, and is only
about 100 meters high, whereas the suburbs are 461,263 acres.IF the national treasure disappeared it would be a priceless loss, and a massive search and rescue was undertaken. After the first search by a team of a thousand members had Failed there was false speculation that the panda had been caught by someone and was illegally transported away by boat. The government organized a thousand policemen from the districts around Suzhou and checked all the boats at the local Tai Lake, but still could not find Bai Xue. The Nanjing Police Dog Research Center sent f.our police seard1 and rescue dogs to help find Bai Xue, one of which had won an international competition. J1te search and rescue team members worked together with dogs, combing the lush Shangfang Mountain which was covered with bamboo, bushes, and woody vines. If the police dogs did not follow the way team members cleared for them, the woody vines would hurt them. After one week, two police dogs had been badly injured on their forelegs by the vines. It appeared that Bai Xue had melted into the forest.
In the month after Bai Xue ran away] the Suzhou TV station broadcast a search notice for the panda, and offered a 10,000 yuan reward for anyone nntl2 proper information as to her whereabouts. The government asked the local populace to join and help the search within a 10km radius around the region.
A few days later Xo Zhenwu, the assistant manager of the Shaanxi Wild Animal Protection Station, joined in the search. He invited Yong Yan’ge, an engineer for Foping Nature Reserve,to join him, as Yong Yan’ge had rich experience tracking wild giant pandas. The two experts concluded that wherever Bai Xue was hiding, she likely preferred to stay near a water source so search teams should focus on those areas. Two days later, on October 24, 38 days after Bai Xue ran away a worker of Shangfang Mountain rivet factory found week-old giant panda feces, which when examined showed Bai Xue was in a healthy condition. This break-though news was extremely inspiring and the search team closely monitored the location. In the dark of the night] they heard the sound of Bai Xue eating bamboo. Although she could be heard, it was still very difficult to find her.
At 6 o’clock the next morning] the Shangfang Mountain Forest Park organized a team of a hundred workers. Together these men searched along the spot where the sound was heard, and excitedly discovered traces of Bai Xue’s feeding activities and finally narrowed down the search area.
Bai Xue’s biding spot was more complex and well concealed than anyone expected. The hiding spot was covered by slash pines and bamboo, and from its location it took only 5 minutes to reach the top of the hill. On its left there was a target range,and on the right was a construction site. This location was the noisiest and nearest to human activity than any other location searched.
Yet in this tiny spot, clever Bai Xue remained hidden for at least one month. In the beginning of
that winter, Bai Xue broke though the blockade and ran out of the bamboo forest.
On December 51 a starving panda showed up in a held 3km away from the Shangfang Mountain
Forest Park. Bai Xue was caught by a crowd of rural laborers, one of whom was bitten in the arm
when they had tied the panda with ropes to hold her. The search and rescue team got the information and brought a cage there. At that time Bai Xue had been on the run for 81 days.
The lost and found panda received a complete veterinary inspection, which revealed she was in a very good condition minus a slight cold, and a loss of 10kg in weight.
After 4 days of recovery Bai Xue was back at the original place of all of this drama, the Suzhou Shangfang Mountain Forest Park, and was able to meet with the public in the city.
4 Years in Wolong
3 months later, Bai Xue was sent to Wolong China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP).
Bai Xue gave birth to 5 cubs with 3 litters in Wolong, and is considered a hero amongst the panda mothers. Her cub Lin Lin was bore in 1997,hums Qing Qing and Xiu Xiu in 1999, and another set of twins, Zhu Zhu and Chuang Chuang were bore in 2000. The back to back births in 1999 and 2000 gave Bai Xue star status at the center. Although she was referred to and treated as a superstar, she still longed to live in her natural habitat.
On May 7, 2001, in the midst of the mating season, Bai Xue seized the opportunity and ran away again. This time she took the advantage of the panda keeper’s cleaning enclosures, broke though 3 iron doors, climbed over a bounding wall and disappeared into the forest again.
The keeper that took care of Bai Xue was confused, for that he knew he had closed the doors tightly. How could she have opened the door and run away? This question still remains unanswered.
After Bai Xue’s second dramatic escape, multiple attempts were made to recapture her, but none were successful. There were several sightings of her in the hills around the breeding center. For 4 years Bai Xue never looked back at the pampered lifestyle she led in Wolong.
4 years later, the legend continued.
One evening, someone saw a panda that meandered into the CCRCGP offices, walked along the bridge, and headed straight to the enclosures and past the door. The panda left two piles of feces to scent mark the location and then walked away. Speculation about the feces being that of Bai Xue circulated through the staff and she was seen on several other occasions wandering around the center. At last the base veterinarian found the panda by the riverbank and was able to capture it. A distinctive crescent-shaped spot between her eyes and the microchip under her skin proved that she was indeed Bai Xue, the runaway panda. After a physical examination, it was determined that the panda had given birth to her cubs during her time in the wild.
This time when Bai Xue was captured, she was asking for help, as she was in extreme pain from a
large infected cut in her gums from a sharp bone. After a simple operation, Bai Xue was healed and fully recovered, but was not re-released back into the wild.
In 2006, in her second year back at the CCRCGq she gave birth to a cub named Si Xue (means “thinking about Bai Xue”), Ning Ning in 2008, and Jin Jin in 2009. Bai Xue’s legend continues amongst panda mothers.
Bai Xue, the legendary runaway panda, is now elderly and lives in the Dujiangyan Giant Panda
Disease Control Center. We wish the happily retired escape artist a healthy and long life there.