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Panda bred in captivity dies after it was released into the wild

A 5-year-old panda - who last year became the first to be released into the wild after being bred in captivity - has died, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said Thursday.

The body of Xiang Xiang was found Feb. 19 in the forests of Sichuan province in China's southwest, Xinhua said. He survived less than a year in the wild after nearly three years of training in survival techniques and defense tactics.

Xiang Xiang, who may have fallen from a high place while fighting with wild pandas, died of serious internal injuries, the report said, citing the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in Sichuan.

No other details were given and it wasn't immediately clear why the bear's death was just reported.

The 176-pound male panda was released from Wolong in April 2006 and had been trained almost three years to survive in the wild. Xiang Xiang, whose name means auspicious, learned how to build a den, forage for food and mark his territory, experts at Wolong have said. He also developed defensive skills like howling and biting.

State media last year said that Xiang Xiang hesitated for a second when the door of his cage was opened, then scampered off into a nearby bamboo forest where he was tracked by a global positioning device attached to his collar.

There are only about 1,600 wild pandas in the mountain forests of central China - the only place in the world they are found - and more than 180 live in captivity.

Pandas are threatened by loss of habitat, poaching and a low reproduction rate. Females in the wild typically have a cub once every two to three years.

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