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January 21, 2010

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Shanghai's new pandas start meeting the public

THE 10 pandas from Sichuan Province that are here for the World Expo met the public at the Shanghai Zoo yesterday after nearly a month's quarantine.

They were in good health and seemed in a good mood.

Although more than 100 people - most of them media representatives from home and abroad - gathered outside the pandas' new home yesterday, the animals showed no anxiety but ate, slept and played lightheartedly.

Pandas prone to tranquility slept together under a tree, and some who seemed more sports-loving climbed up and down a wooden stand or played with water in a pool.

Zoo officials said they expected the first big wave of spectators this weekend.

If crowds become too large, the zoo will consider displaying the pandas in turns to ensure their safety.

"But we reckon such an extreme situation won't appear," said Chen Lihua, a zoo official, "because the pandas will be staying in Shanghai for a long time and people can come at any time for the most of the year."

Yin Fabao, a 76-year-old resident, went to see the panda yesterday afternoon.

"I saw in the newspaper that people could come to watch the pandas," he said. "I seldom came to the zoo before, but I love pandas."

Good appetites

The exhibition area, about 180 square meters, was surrounded by glass. Officials reminded visitors not to pat on it, lest they scare the pandas.

Zoo officials said most of a panda's day was for eating and sleeping.

The animals get up around 8am and go to sleep again around 10am after having breakfast. They nap until about 1pm. Supper begins as early as 3pm.

Their latest physical exams showed they gained some weight since coming to the city, according to the zoo.

"They have become accustomed to the 'Shanghai cuisine' here, and every day they have a good appetite," Chen said.

The pandas' main staples are bamboo from Sheshan Hill in Songjiang District, and a special kind of bun made of milk powder, wheat meal and soybean meal. The recipe was learned from caretakers from the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center in Sichuan, where the pandas lived before coming to Shanghai.

"They'll consume about 10 kilograms of bamboo every day," Chen said. "At first we were worried that they wouldn't accept the taste of bamboo produced in Shanghai, but now the local bamboo seems to be popular."

The 10 pandas reached the city on January 5. All were born after the massive Sichuan earthquake in May 2008.

They will stay at the zoo for the first half of the year and move to the Shanghai Wildlife Park for the second half.


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