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Wolong pandas start life anew in Beijing
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10:33, May 26, 2008

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Giant pandas from quake-hit Wolong of southwest China's Sichuan Province have started their new lives in the capital city of Beijing.

All of the eight pandas from the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, near the May 12 quake's epicenter in Wenchuan county, who arrived here on Saturday on a flight from Chengdu, appeared dejected at first, according to Monday's China Daily.

Drooping her head and almost motionless, Cui Cui appeared to be in low spirits.

Even the cheerful crowd of local media and 40 volunteers from Tsinghua University failed to attract the 2-year-old female panda's attention. And Cui Cui was not the only one.

The bears, which were chosen in an online poll from 16 Wolong pandas born in 2006 to meet visitors in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, will stay at the capital's zoo until November.

Explaining the pandas' mood, Zhang Guiquan, the center's deputy director, said, "Their daily routine has been interrupted."

But things changed after they were sent to their new home at Beijing Zoo.

Lang Lang, a normally well-mannered male panda, forgot himself when he caught sight of his first meal in Beijing - fresh bamboo leaves from central Henan Province.

He lay on the ground with his four legs in the air, placed his dinner on his belly and consumed it with gusto.

Others also rushed to join the feast, and later chased each other. Such a group scene may not happen after they grow up, as adult pandas prefer a solitary existence.

The new home in Beijing offers a good place for the pandas to recover from the deadly earthquake, which damaged their home in Wolong.

Bamboo woods, a small pond, grassland and bright paintings welcomed the pandas to their new home.

Zhang Jingguo, deputy head of Beijing Zoo, said it took two months and 4.5 million yuan (some 648,000 U.S. dollars) to build the glass-walled compound, planned long before the quake.

"Each glass wall is thick enough to effectively block any noise or heat that could upset the pandas," Zhang said.

Compared with their home in Wolong, their new abode is much smaller. But they will be well taken care of, enjoying a daily diet of 200 kg of fresh bamboo leaves and 40 kg of bamboo shoots, as well as milk, carrots, apples and Chinese-style buns.

It is hard to link these calm and cheerful bears with the fearful moments of May 12.

"The sky turned dark and it seemed to be raining stones," recalled Wu Daifu, a panda keeper from Wolong.

Wang Pengyan, deputy head of China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, said the pandas were scared by the quake.

"Some climbed up trees, which is the most typical way pandas try to avoid danger," Wang said, noting the pandas were traumatized following the quake, and even lost their appetite.

"We worked hard to comfort them. It took three days for them to get back to normal," he said.

In another development, a giant panda who went missing from the center was spotted alive about 5:20 p.m. on Sunday by a group of road workers.

The panda, named Xixi, was found playing at the other side of a river near the center in Wolong.


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