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Playful pandas make quake-affected kids feel warm and fuzzy
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Liu Yu, a 10-year-old student from Beijie Primary School in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, arrived at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding early yesterday morning.

He was pleasantly surprised to find he was the first to arrive at the center, which is home to 67 giant pandas. In celebration of International Children's Day, which fell on Sunday, the center has waived admission fees for children through today.

Primary school pupils from the Longmenshan Town Central School pose with Xin Fa, a 4-month-old panda in the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, on Saturday.

"My son has never seen a panda before, so I hope he'll enjoy spending the first Children's Day since the earthquake here," said the boy's mother Qin Taiqiang, a teacher in Dujiangyan, 40 km from Chengdu. The family's home was destroyed in the May 12 earthquake.

On Saturday, the center sent a bus to bring back 80 students from Longmenshan Town Central School in Pengzhou, a city hit hard by the earthquake.

The quake rendered the schoolhouse, which was about 70 km from Chengdu, structurally unsound. Of the school's 1,100 students, one died and three were injured in the disaster.

Air force and People's Liberation Army soldiers constructed a steel makeshift classroom for the children, who resumed classes on May 23.

The temporary classroom is near Baishuihe, a national nature reserve devoted to giant panda conservation.

Most of the students had neither seen a giant panda nor visited Chengdu, Liu Dawei, a sports teacher who led the group from the school, said.

The students cheered and screamed at the sight of the pandas, and some who had worn anxious expressions since the tragic quake grinned widely.

First grader Yang Lu, who lives in a tent with her parents since their house was destroyed by the earthquake, acted timidly and said little at first.

But the 8-year-old burst into laughter as she watched pandas snack on bamboo and apples, and frolic on a swing.

She said the highlight of the trip was when the students were divided into eight groups to visit the delivery room, where they were given surgical gloves to pet 4-month-old panda Xing Ya and pose for photographs with the baby bear.

"I'm eager to tell my mom I saw a cute panda with soft fur," she said.

(China Daily June 2, 2008)

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