Pandas to return to China reserve

Pandas to return to China reserve

Sixty pandas relocated last year from a famous Chinese nature reserve after their breeding centre was severely damaged by a massive earthquake will return home after repairs in 2012.

The panda breeding centre in the Wolong nature reserve in southwest China's Sichuan province is undergoing a 379m yuan (€37.7m) reconstruction expected to be completed by 2011, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The Wolong reserve's location in a damp, narrow valley several hours from Chengdu, the Sichuan capital, made it vulnerable during the 7.9-magnitude quake, which sent boulders the size of cars crashing down, destroying enclosures and administrative buildings.

The May 12, 2008 quake left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing, including 12 staff at the panda centre.

The centre had 63 pandas before the quake, but one died, another went missing and a third died of illness, Xinhua said, citing Luo Zengbin, deputy head of the provincial forestry department.

The surviving pandas have been moved to zoos elsewhere in China, with most sent to the Bifengxia panda base in the city of Ya'an.

About 1,590 pandas are living in the wild, mostly in Sichuan and the western province of Shaanxi. An additional 180 have been bred in captivity.

Wolong is part of efforts to breed giant pandas in hopes of increasing the species' chances of survival.

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