WORTH NOTING ON TV

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* WEDNESDAY

National Geographic special (NBC, 8-9 p.m.): When people around the world ''ooh'' and ''ah'' at a caged animal, there's a good chance they're looking at a giant panda. These captivating creatures are the bankable stars of the zoo, sure to return their purchase price because they are the most popular among visitors.

But the animals are in trouble. Right now, for instance, there's only one giant panda in the United States, in Washington, D.C. Programs to breed them aren't working well: Over the past 30 years, some 60 percent of the pandas born in captivity have died within a year, for reasons scientists concede they don't understand. And in the wild there are fewer than 1,200 pandas in existence.

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In ''Secrets of the Wild Panda,'' noted documentary filmmaker Mark Stouffer was allowed to tag along with Chinese scientists researching pandas in remote areas of China. The program offers what National Geographic calls the first footage of a giant panda with young in its native habitat.

By discovering the animal's life secrets, scientists hope they can duplicate some of the conditions in captivity and check the population decline. Meanwhile, some of the shots may create a little ''ooh-ing'' and ''ah-ing'' among viewers -- at a tiny pink panda baby, for instance, shown in one sequence.

Discovering Women (PBS, 9-11 p.m.): Women who are making waves -- the good kind -- in science and engineering are the focus of this three-parter. By profiling notable women in these fields, the series hopes to encourage other women and ''underrepresented'' minorities (read ''other than Asian'') to choose these professions.

In Part 1 of the opener, ''High Energy,'' physicist Melissa Franklin searches for the smallest of the small -- subatomic particles. In ''Jewels in a Test Tube,'' biochemist Lynda Jordan researches the secrets of a human enzyme.

Parts 2 and 3 air on April 5 and 12.

Please check local listings for these programs.

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