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|Thursday, April 20, 2000, updated at 13:49(GMT+8)|
Chinese Renowned Panda Expert Wins Getty PrizeChina's renowned giant panda expert Pan Wenshi has become this year's Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize recipient, and is the first Chinese to win the prestigious award, according to sources with the World Wildlife Fund.
Pan told Xinhua on April 19 that he plans to use the 100,000 U.S. dollar-prize to set up a fund for giant panda research and protection projects in national reserves, where working conditions are hard.
The Getty Prize, which WWF administers on behalf of the family of the late billionaire J. Paul Getty, honors those who have made pioneering and substantial contributions to animal research. The annual prize was set up 1974.
Ginette Hemley, WWF's vice president for endangered species conservation, congratulated Pan, calling him "a passionate and tireless advocate on behalf of panda conservation". "Pan has contributed enormously to our understanding of the giant panda," Hemley said.
Pan, director of the Giant Panda and Wildlife Conservation Research Center with Beijing University, was chosen both for his achievements over a career spanning some 20 years and for his role in convincing the government to impose a ban on logging in the Changqing area in the Qinling Mountains in northwest China, and set up a nature reserve there.
Chinese and foreign giant panda experts agree that one of the biggest threats facing the giant panda on April 19 is the diminishing habitat from logging and other economic activities.
Pan has contributed greatly to bringing about a moratorium on logging and to the set-up of the Changqing reserve with an appropriation worth 50 million-yuan (6 million US dollars) from the Chinese government and 4.7 million US dollars of World Bank loans. The reserve, with a core area covered by 305 sq. km. of dense forest, is now home to over 200 giant pandas and 80 varieties of animals.
Kathryn Fuller, president of World Wildlife Fund-US, said "it has been a long and hard journey to get to the point where we can be guardedly optimistic about the panda's fate, but we have done it because Professor Pan's success made us confident that the future is hopeful."
The award is Pan's fourth international honor. Nominees of the Getty Prize are chosen by WWF and the winner is selected by a jury of eminent conservationists. The award carries with it national and international recognition and a cash prize.
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