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Home >> China
UPDATED: 08:04, April 10, 2006
Giant Panda, symbol of China, shed happiness at the world's zoos
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Tai Shan, a nine-month-old giant panda cub, caused stir in the United States when he was born on July 9 last year and then met the public at the Washington National Zoo in December.

Visitors have lined up to see him and he often makes news headlines.

He is the offspring of Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, a pair sent to Washington in 2000 on a 10-year loan. Eleven pandas now live in four U.S.zoos and San Diego Zoo has seen the births of three cubs.

Another 13 giant pandas reside in five other countries including Japan, Mexico, Germany, Austria and Thailand.

Thailand's Chiang Mai Zoo held a grand traditional Chinese wedding ceremony for a pair with a three-tier cake decorated with dragons last November.

An endangered species, giant pandas number approximately 1,600 in the wild. About 80 percent of the animals, which normally weigh 90 to 115 kilograms, live in the lush, cloud-wreathed mountains of southwest China's Sichuan Province while the remainder live in neighboring Gansu, Shaanxi and Qinghai provinces in northwestern China.

The giant panda is China's longest serving ambassador. As early as 685 AD, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) sent two pandas, for the first time as gifts, to Japan.

After the founding of new China in 1949, a panda named Pingping was sent to the former Soviet Union in 1955 and to mark U.S. President Richard Nixon's trip to China in 1972, the government offered two giant pandas to the American people.

Since 1985, China has "loaned" pandas abroad to help fund rare species research.

More than 90 percent of cubs born in captivity now survive to adulthood thanks to 40 years of artificial breeding trials. International researchers and zookeepers can learn how to treat the animals at Sichuan's Wolong Giant Panda Research Center, the world's largest panda breeding base.

Experts say that sending pandas to foreign zoos provides an opportunity for scientists around the world to learn more about the animal's biology and help with conservation.

The giant pandas has also been selected as one of the five mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games as the Chinese holds that the animal symbolizes the aspiration for a peaceful and harmonious world.

Source: Xinhua

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