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Pandas check out fit for move to new home

THE 10 "Expo pandas" on a one-year loan from Sichuan Province to thrill World Expo visitors, will move to Shanghai Wildlife Park on Monday after passing their last physical check in good health at Shanghai Zoo yesterday.

The zoo weighed the pandas, four males and six females, and found they were generally around 20 kilograms heavier than when they first arrived in Shanghai in January.

Panda Yun Yun, the second heaviest of the group when arriving in the city, has emerged as the strongest. She now weighs 73 kilograms, 2 kilograms heavier than Han Yuan who was the heaviest in January.

Meanwhile, Min Min remains the lightest of the 10 pandas, despite adding 14 kilograms in the past six months. Officials said she was the youngest, born in October 2008, and still needs time to develop.

Zoo officials said they have started controlling the pandas' weight to guard against excessive gains which would be harmful to their health.

"Their size is still within the normal scale," said Yuan Yaohua, deputy director of the zoo. "But if they grow far too fat, they may lack vitamins or calcium. Their ability to adapt to the environment will also decrease."

To control the panda's weight, carers have reduced their quantity of high-protein food, such as milk, but increased the amount of high-fiber feed, such as bamboo.

"Usually they grow by 0.2 kilograms per day, but now they grow by 0.1 to 0.15 kilograms," said Yuan.

The excretion check showed that they had no parasite or fecal blood, said the zoo.

Officials said as it's getting hotter, the pandas, which are sensitive to high temperature, will prefer to stay indoors more. The zoo provides electric fans but not air conditioners in their lair.

"We believe the less artificial influences in their environment the better," Yuan said.

The pandas will start moving to the park on Monday night. Because of the possibility of hot weather, the zoo will prepare enclosed, air-conditioned vehicles for them. Temperatures in the vehicles will be kept around 20 degrees Celsius.

The wildlife park has prepared a panda home and bamboo plant center for the newcomers. The pandas will spend the next six months there and two keepers from Sichuan Province will be with them.

All 10 pandas came from Sichuan's Wolong Giant Panda Research Center. They were young pandas born after the massive Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

Some of the pandas' names were given by the public, but others had special meanings. For example, the panda Ao Yun, which means "Olympics," was so named because he was born on August 8, 2008, the day the Beijing Olympic Games started.


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