July 8, 2008

Plan Offered to Rebuild Panda Habitat

Rebuilding a major habitat for giant pandas destroyed by the devastating earthquake that struck China in May would cost about $290 million, planners said.

The giant panda research center in the Wolong nature reserve would be moved from its current site and would include a larger lab, a panda hospital, a larger cub pen, a bamboo planting field and an area to help acquaint pandas with wildlife, Xinhua, China's official news agency, reported.

Five staff members and one panda were killed in the May 12 quake.

The plan was developed by Wolong reserve employees, Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and submitted to the Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department and the State Forestry Administration, Xinhua said.

The plan is still being deliberated and must receive approval from several government departments before construction can begin, a preserve official told the news agency. If it is approved, the new preserve could be open by 2015.

The Wolong reserve was opened in 1963 in southwestern Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the earthquake. It houses more than 150 pandas, and 56 animal species and 24 endangered plants under national protection.