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Pandas 'need more protection'
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Authorities in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, a home of the giant panda, are seeking to introduce the world's first law that is specifically geared to the protection of the endangered bears.

The city's forestry and gardening bureau, which overseas the protection of rare and endangered animal species, has submitted a proposal and a feasibility report to the Chengdu People's Congress.

It calls for the local law-making body to include the Chengdu Giant Panda Protection and Management Ordinance in its legislation plan for next year, Jin Min, chief of the bureau's law and regulation division, said on Friday.

Sources from the local congress said it will most likely include the ordinance in its legislation plan for next year.

If it is included, the congress will set up a drafting group and submit the draft to its standing committee for discussion.

After that committee gives the green light, the ordinance will then need to be approved by the Standing Committee of the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress before it can come into effect.

"The whole process will take six months," Qu Ying, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chengdu People's Congress said.

Jing Shimin, assistant director of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, said the ordinance is necessary to ensure the giant panda is fully protected under the country's wildlife protection law.

"The law is very general, as it refers to protection of various wild animals, such as the elephant and tiger," he told China Daily.

"In many cases, moral condemnation seems a weak and there is inadequate punishment for abusive activities involving giant pandas.

"Issues like artificial breeding and the commercial exploitation of the animal or its image are not within the current spectrum of China's Wildlife Protection Law," Jing said.

Sources from the Chengdu People's Congress said the ordinance would improve people's understanding of the need for better protection for giant pandas, as well as prevent both individuals and institutions from profiteering from them.

"Many individuals and companies are oblivious to the need to protect these endangered bears," Jing said.

"Some people have even offered us large amounts of money to take a panda to their weddings or opening ceremonies," he said.

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is home to 67 pandas. Fifty more live at other centers throughout Chengdu.

According to documents submitted to the local People's Congress, excessive tourism development has had a detrimental impact on giant pandas' habitat and welfare.

This summer, several bears at the Chendgu base contracted flu, which staff said they probably caught from tourists.

The ordinance would restrict the number of visitors, Qu said.

(China Daily November 24, 2007)

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