July 19, 2006

Dentists to Give Hurt Panda False Teeth

BEIJING -- Chinese vets and dentists are considering implanting three false teeth into a giant panda injured in the wilds of the northern province of Shaanxi, Xinhua news agency said.

The operation would help the panda -- who also suffered a fractured skull, broken legs and chest injuries after an apparent fall into a ravine -- to take in more nutrition and help it recover, Xinhua said late on Wednesday.

"With the three teeth, the giant panda will be able to eat bamboo with ease," Xinhua quoted Li Liujin, a military hospital doctor, as saying.

The animal, found by tourists on July 1 by a river at a scenic spot near Shaanxi's provincial capital, Xian, had already sparked a frantic hunt for panda blood plasma for a transfusion.

A census in 2002 showed there were 1,596 wild giant pandas living across China, scattered across more than 40 nature reserves in Shaanxi, Sichuan and Gansu provinces.

And in Beijing, zoo keepers have drafted in a lactating whippet to feed new-born lesser pandas -- also known as red pandas -- after their mother was unable to produce enough milk, the China Daily said on Thursday.

The dog, described by the zoo publicity director as "beautiful, gentle and friendly" and "like a deer," will feed and live with the panda cubs for two months, the paper said.

The panda has become an informal national emblem for China and is seen as a symbol of friendship and peace.