Quake-Hit Panda Center May Move to Safer Ground

Cara Anna in Shanghai, China
Associated Press
May 29, 2008

The chief of the world's most famous giant panda reserve wants to find a new home for the conservation center, which was badly damaged by this month's deadly earthquake in China.

"It's better to move, I think," Zhang Hemin, chief of the Wolong National Nature Reserve, said by phone Thursday.

The remote reserve is just 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake, which has killed more than 68,000 people, including five people who worked for the reserve. (See pictures of the quake's devastation.)

One panda remains missing, and several of the panda shelters have been destroyed. Conditions remain so bad that the Chinese government last week arranged an emergency food shipment of about 5 tons of bamboo for the 47 pandas still at the reserve.

(Read: "Panda Finds Way Home to Reserve After China Quake" [May 20, 2008].)

Landslides have closed roads from the panda center to the east, where farmers grow bamboo in large, open bottomlands for the captive pandas to eat, Marc Brody, president of the U.S.-China Environmental Fund (USCEF), told National Geographic News.

"Pandas [browse through] 20 kilos [44 pounds] of fresh bamboo a day, and so when the bamboo supplies are not accessible due to road closures, it becomes a serious crisis," said Brody, who has received funding from the National Geographic Society for panda conservation research. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

No possible locations for the move were given.

Breeding Roadblock

The reserve's location in a damp, narrow valley several hours' drive from the capital of Sichuan Province made it an easy target during the 8 magnitude quake, which tossed down boulders the size of cars. Most of the staffers, tourists, and pandas were outside at the time.

According to an article by the only journalist at the reserve during the quake, the Shanghai Morning Post's Wu Fei, some pandas froze and looked at the sky, not moving even when their handlers tried to get them going.

Some tourists reported that the pandas seemed to sense the quake in the minutes before it happened.

Continued on Next Page >>


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