May 22, 2008

China’s Pandas Receive Emergency Quake Relief

Officials in China have sent emergency rations of bamboo-shoots to a reserve housing pandas in the earthquake zone in Sichuan province, China's state media reported Thursday. The move was made because no one was collecting food for the bears in the aftermath of China's most devastating earthquake in decades.

According to a government Web site, 47 people were killed near the Wolong Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, the nation's largest panda breeding center. Thirty-five others were seriously injured, the State Forestry Administration said.

The center is located deep in the mountains north of the provincial capital of Chengdu, along a winding, two-lane road that was partly obstructed by landslides following the quake.

Two of the center's 53 pandas were injured and six had gone missing.  By Tuesday, four had returned and the injured had received medical treatment, the newspaper said.   

Officials sent 4,500 kg of bamboo, 1,050 kg of bamboo shoots and large quantities of eggs, apples, soybean, milk powder and other food items to feed the center's giant pandas, according to the China Daily report.   

"The supply of bamboo had been suspended because people stopped collecting it from the mountains after the quake," the state newspaper quoted a wildlife protection official as saying.

Eight pandas selected to entertain tourists during the upcoming Olympic Games have been sent to Chengdu, and will be transported to Beijing on Saturday, according to a Reuters report.

Because of its location only 30 km from the epicenter, the center suffered widespread during the May 12 quake, which is estimated to have killed 50,000 people.

"There was only water (for the pandas) for a few days after the quake," Xiong Beirong, a forestry department official in Sichuan province, was quoted as saying.  

Sichuan province is home to most of China's 1,590 pandas that live in the wild. The rest dwell within Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, while another 180 have been bred in captivity.