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Giant pandas in Chengdu safe from quake, no news from Wolong
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20:20, May 13, 2008

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· 7.8 Richter scale earthquake hits SW China
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The more than 60 giant pandas at a research base in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province, were safe after Monday's devastating earthquake, sources with the base said Tuesday.

Most of the pandas were roaming in the open air and unaffected when the quake hit on Monday afternoon, said an official with the research base, who gave only his family name as Fei. "We didn't close the area to visitors."

He said the quake did ring an alarm to the 200-odd workers. "Wehave double-checked the walls and the pandas' pens to make sure of their safety."

After a thorough safety check, the base still opened to tourists on Tuesday morning, he said.

"Some international tourists arrived before 8 a.m. even though it was raining," he said. "They were relieved to hear the pandas were unaffected by the quake."

The research base, home to one of the world's biggest group of artificially-bred giant pandas, received an estimated 1,000 visitors on Tuesday, though aftershocks were constantly felt in the city.

The base has its own uninterrupted power supply system and ensures drinking water for the giant pandas, said Fei. "Our biggest concern was that the quake might cut the pandas' food supplies, as Wenchuan is a leading supplier of bamboo."

While the baby pandas can eat milk, fruits and some vegetables, the 46 adult pandas at the base live solely on fresh bamboo. "The daily consumption is more than 1,000 kilograms," he said. "But the quake has cut off transportation in many areas, and the subsequent natural disasters are likely to affect bamboo growth."

Fei and his colleagues have maintained contacts with bamboo suppliers in Tongzhou and Pengzhou cities near Chengdu, who promised to ensure supplies.

It is still impossible to obtain any information from Wolong, another giant panda base about 30 km from the epicenter Wenchuan and home to some 130 pandas.

"We've lost contact with the Wolong center for more than 20 hours and we are gravely concerned over the safety of our colleagues and the pandas," said Fei.

Fei and his colleagues have been trying to call the Wolong center, but of no avail. "We are aware that there's been no news from Wolong at all even on the newspapers and TV."

Xinhua has learned that about 60,000 people in several townships and villages in the epicenter Wenchuan are entirely out of reach.

"The Chengdu base and Wolong center are like two brothers," said Fei. "We cooperate closely, share many research findings and exchange visits. If they are in trouble, we have the personnel and facilities to help them out."

The State Forestry Administration said Tuesday the giant pandas were safe in Sichuan's Ya'an, where the cuddly bears were first discovered in 1869 by French missionary and naturalist Pere Armand David.

The Ya'an natural habitat, a 5,300-square-km area, is home to about 300 giant pandas.

Source: Xinhua

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