Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Rare Glimpse of Wild Panda In Heat


Our filmmakers spent three years tracking down one of the rarest sights in nature: a wild panda looking to mate. While pandas may appear cute and cuddly, they are a territorial, large bear and filming them is not without risk.


- [Narrator] Cameraman, Jacky Poon takes up the story.

- [Jacky] When you encounter a wild panda, there's nothing cute and cuddly about them.

The eyes are very focused and very alert of what's going on.

They are just a big bear.

- [Narrator] He's probably the dominant male in the area.

He may weigh over 300 pounds, and if he stood up, reach almost seven feet.

He's fearless and curious.

He may never have seen people before.

- [Jacky] We have to be really cautious and really careful when we are doing this.

Do we have to give him space?

What is the safety distance between this individual and us and the camera?

And we always have to think, okay, if anything happens, what I'm gonna do?

- [Narrator] The team follow him along a narrow mountain ridge.

This is the time of the spring panda rut, the month where males gather to find females to mate.

Pandas can smell hormones.

It's another panda has left a urine message on a tree.

(panda sniffs) He allowed his own.

He does a handstand to get as high up the tree as possible so that he seems bigger.

The wild panda catches another scent, a female in season.

(panda sniffs) He starts to roll in the snow and leaf litter.

He's mixing in his own smell.

It's a conversation in scent.

It seems like he's playing, rolling around, but this is serious business.

This is a territorial wild bear, ready to defend his patch.

There's a spot of blood in the middle of his flank.

It's the first sign of things to come.

He rolls in the scent marks of a female and then walks towards the team.

For Jacky, it's a moment of panic.

- [Jacky] All of a sudden the panda come this way, we're, Oh! Get the cam and just like run the other way!

It's just me shouting, 'Go! Hurry up, hurry up!'

- [Narrator] The panda completely ignores the rangers and crew, trying to get clear and just lumbers on.

- [Jacky] Yeah, it's a bit too scary.

It's actually gotten really close.

And you'll see, we're just running away.

And then this is the second time he goes towards me.

I tried to hold the shot as long as possible, but it's a bit, yeah, it's a bit too scary.

- [Narrator] Three times he wanders towards the crew and despite getting close enough to touch.

ignores them completely.

He's so focused on finding a mate, nothing, it seems will distract him.


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.