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Quake-hit panda reserve awaits HK aid
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Work to rebuild Sichuan Province's Wolong Nature Reserve, which was destroyed in the massive May 12 earthquake last year, is expected to start later this month after an aid program gets a nod from the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.

The epicenter of the 8-magnitude earthquake was just 30 km from Wolong. The disaster left a panda dead and another missing ever since.

Zhang Hemin, chief of the Wolong Nature Reserve Administrative Bureau, told China Daily yesterday that 14 of the reserve's 32 panda houses were destroyed, and the rest were severely damaged, rendering 61 pandas homeless.

The economic losses amounted to nearly 2 billion yuan (US$293 million).

The bureau has jointly developed a reconstruction plan with Peking University, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing-based Turenscape Company.

According to the plan, the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas in Wolong will be relocated from Hetaoping to Gengda, also part of the reserve.

The new site in Gengda would feature a laboratory covering 650 sq m, panda houses covering a total of 1,500 sq m, a panda hospital, a training ground for preparing pandas in captivity to live in the wild, an environmental education center, and a bamboo forest for feeding pandas in captivity.

"The new panda houses are big enough for every panda to roll around inside," Li Desheng, the bureau's deputy chief, said. A giant panda disease prevention and control center will be built in Dujiangyan, a city under the administration of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, he said.

Zhang said the reconstruction plan is expected to cost more than 2 billion yuan, over 1.3 billion of which is expected in aid from Hong Kong.

"The reconstruction can start in full swing this spring once Hong Kong's Legislative Council approves the program pertaining to 25 projects such as protecting pandas in the wild, panda research and a panda hospital, Zhang said.

He believed the council would approve the aid for Wolong but was not sure whether it would provide all the money that the reserve needed.

The Sichuan provincial development and reform commission has approved the feasibility plan for the 25 projects, he said.

(China Daily February 10, 2009)

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