Pandas Safe After Chinese Quake, Officials Say

Updated May 13, 2008

The world's most famous giant pandas are safe more than a day after a devastating earthquake isolated the remote, mountainous area from the rest of the world, China's State Forestry Administration has confirmed.

Officials made radio contact with Wolong National Nature Reserve and panda breeding center, the only place where the rare animals can be seen in such large numbers.

The baby giant pandas have been relocated to another settlement 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) upstream from the panda center, according to Marc Brody, president of the U.S.-China Environmental Fund. Eighty-six adult pandas have also been confirmed safe. However, 19 local people in the area may have died when their stone houses collapsed.

Chinese officials and zoo officials overseas were worried about the center's hundred or so pandas, whose home is close to the heart of Monday's massive earthquake in central Sichuan province.

(See photos of the quake's destruction.)

The Wolong area is without electricity and phone communications, though satellite phones are now operational for rescue operations in the nearby cities of Yingxou and Wenchuan, Brody told National Geographic News.

According to Brody, who has worked at Wolong for the past seven years, government reports have stated that a new paratrooper operation is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

A heavy rain was reported in the area for the second night following the earthquake, Brody added.

"The fact that Wolong remains completely isolated a day and a half later in this age of modern technology highlights the severe topography and difficult accessibility of this area," he said.

The magnitude 7.9 quake toppled buildings, schools, and chemical plants Monday, killing about 10,000 people and trapping untold numbers in mounds of concrete, steel, and earth in the country's worst quake in three decades.

Peace Symbol

Pandas are a distinct symbol of China and the loans of the animals to other countries as peace offerings has been described as "panda politics."

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