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August 16, 2009

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Tribute to panda finder

GIANT panda enthusiasts in China set out for a hike yesterday in southwestern Sichuan Province to retrace the steps of a French missionary who made the animal known to the West 140 years ago.

Twenty hikers from around the country departed from West China Medical School of Sichuan University in the provincial capital Chengdu.

They passed health checks before the 350-kilometer journey that will include not only beautiful views but also steep, dangerous mountain paths.

They are expected to arrive at their destination, the Ya'an Bifengxia Breeding Base of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong Nature Reserve, on August 25.

Pere Jean Pierre Armand David, the French Catholic missionary, introduced the giant panda to the Western world after taking photographs of it in 1869 in Sichuan's Ya'an City.

"We hope to spread the knowledge of environmental protection and invite more people to join in protection of endangered giant pandas and other wild animals at large," said Yang Guang, the hike organizer.

As well as the hike, a festival of films featuring giant pandas and other wildlife will start in Ya'an on Wednesday to mark the 140th anniversary of their discovery by the outside world.


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