China would build a 130-hectare giant panda center in southwest Sichuan Province where the endangered animals will be trained for eventual release into the wild, an expert has said.
Construction is scheduled to start this year and conclude in three to five years, said Hou Rong, a researcher of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
The room in the base is not enough for the 82 pandas who are living there. The base had only six pandas when it was founded in 1987, according to Hou, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body.
Living together in captivity also makes these pandas vulnerable to infectious diseases, Hou said at the ongoing CPPCC's annual session.
"The best protection of an endangered species is to restore their population in the wild," she added.
Hou called for donations from China and abroad for the construction of the new panda home, which she said will cost at least 100 million yuan (14.6 million U.S. dollars). The Chengdu panda breeding center has raised only 60 million yuan.
Two American students who interned at the Chengdu panda base in 2008 have promised to contribute 10,000 dollars they raised in their school for the project, said Hou.
Eighteen panda cubs were born last year in the Chengdu base, which Hou said was a great achievement.
(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2009)