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China to build a new panda breeding base in Sichuan

CHINA will start construction of a new breeding center for giant pandas around May to replace the former quake-leveled habitat in southwestern Sichuan Province, officials said.

The new China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center will be located in Huangcaoping area, about 10 kilometers from the former one. The new base is also in the Wolong nature reserve wrecked by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in May 2008, said Huang Jianhua, the Party chief of the nature reserve administration.

The new base includes 25 projects funded by Hong Kong, totaling about 1.3 billion yuan (about US$191 million), and 19 projects funded by the state forestry administration, totaling about 270 million yuan.

"We select the Huangcaoping because the environment, water, weather and geological situations here are the best," Huang said. "The pandas will be comfortable living here as it is not far from the former base."

"Safety is the priority," he said.

Wolong reserve, 10 kilometers away from the epicenter, was severely damaged in the quake last year. The quake left one panda dead, one injured and another one missing.

Most of the pandas in the reserve were moved to the Bifengxia breeding base in Ya'an City and some zoos elsewhere after the quake. Only six pandas of about 18 months are living in prefabricated houses in the reserve.

The state-level protection and research center was built in 1980. As the world's largest breeding center for the endangered species, it has 142 captive pandas, taking 60 percent of the world's total.

In addition, building of a panda disease control and prevention center will also be launched soon and is expected to be completed in 2010 in Dujiangyan, a city near the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu. In the future, pandas in any breeding base in China will be transferred here for treatment in case they contracted infectious diseases.

There are about 1,590 pandas living in the wild around the country, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. Another 180 are being bred in captivity.


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