Ami Vitale
Ami Vitale

In a region where grim environmental news is common, the giant panda might prove to be the exception. Many decades of human population growth and land conversion have decreased panda numbers—but the Chinese now have both the tools and the plans to turn things around, thanks largely to the perseverance of scientists and conservationists.

China has begun boosting current panda populations and creating new ones by breeding the iconic bears in captivity; they’ve already released a handful into the wild. Zhang Hemin directs the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, which oversees multiple facilities dedicated to the animals’ care and breeding. The operation’s current emphasis “is to release, release, release,” says Zhang, who’s known as Papa Panda for his devotion to the bears. “Now we have to make sure there’s good habitat and then put pandas in it.”

The ultimate hope of panda lovers and preservationists? Not just to put pandas back into the wild, but to put the wild back into pandas.

Photographer Ami Vitale has recently turned her lens to documenting compelling wildlife stories and spent three years documenting these fascinating bears. “Rewilding Pandas” appeared in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Artist Bios

  • Ami Vitale

    Ami Vitale’s journey as a photographer and filmmaker has taken her to 94 countries, where she has witnessed civil unrest and violence but also surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. Vitale is an Ambassador for Nikon and a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine.

    Her work is exhibited around the world in museums and galleries and are part of numerous private collections. She has garnered prestigious awards, including multiple prizes from World Press Photos, the International Photographer of the Year prize, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, and Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association, among others.

    Vitale is a founding member of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of scientists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers with a mission of creating powerful stories illustrating the very specific issues women in developing countries face. She is also a member of the Executive Advisory Committee of the Alexia Foundation’s Photojournalism Advisory Board.

    Now based in Montana, Vitale continues to make films and stories of the planet’s most pressing issues and frequently gives lectures and workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia.


  • National Geographic

    National Geographic

    Established in 1888, National Geographic is a trusted print and digital publication offering stories that illuminate, inspire, and reveal. Our mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultures, the sciences, and the natural world. We advance that mission by creating visually stunning, richly reported photojournalism and distinguished, impartial coverage of the globe’s most pressing issues. National Geographic (@natgeo) has more than 284 million followers.

Rewilding Pandas in China

 archive : 2016

Featuring: Ami Vitale

Curated by: Sadie Quarrier

Presented by: National Geographic
  • National Geographic


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