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"Olympic Pandas" come back home in Sichuan from Beijing
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08:05, March 23, 2009

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Eight pandas were flown to their home in southwest China's Sichuan Province to end a 10-month stay in Beijing.

The pandas left Beijing at 6 p.m. and arrived at Chengdu Shuangliu International airport in Sichuan Province at 8:45 p.m.

The pandas looked lively at the airport, as some seemed to havejust awakened while others were eating apples and bamboo in their individual cages.

Later, they will head for their new home at the Ya'an-based Bifengxia Base of the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, said Li Desheng, vice head of the Center.

The pandas were flown to Beijing on May 24 last year from their damaged habitat at the Wolong Nature Reserve near the epicenter of May 12 Wenchuan earthquake last year.

Their visit to Beijing, which was planned before the quake, added cheer to the Olympics in August.

During their stay in the Beijing Zoo, the pandas, aged between one and two, attracted 2.1 million visitors from China and abroad.

Three to six pandas will be sent to Beijing in two months for the exhibition to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, said Zhang Jinguo, vice head of Beijing Zoo.

The devastating earthquake caused severe damage to the Wolong base, where most of the country's captive pandas were kept. Five base staff were killed, as was one captive panda. Two pandas were injured and six went missing, five of which were eventually found.

"It will take one to two more years for the Wolong base to resume functioning," said Tang Chunxiang, assistant to the director of Bifengxia base. "The eight pandas will stay in Bifengxia until the rebuilding of the Wolong base is finished."

Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals. There are about 1,590 pandas living in China's wild, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. Through 2007, there were 239 captive bred giant pandas in the country.

Source: Xinhua

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