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One panda confirmed dead in Sichuan quake
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A 9-year-old female giant panda that had lived at the Wolong nature reserve was confirmed dead as a result of the May 12 earthquake, with her body retrieved and buried on Tuesday.

Mao Mao was among six pandas who went missing after the quake. The other five were found.

Rescuers found the body in the rubble of the pandas' pens on Monday and excavated it on Tuesday morning, said Li Desheng, vice director of the Conservation and Research Center of the Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas.

"Mao Mao had three offspring, aged between less than one year old and three years old. All of them will be raised carefully," Li said.

The Wolong reserve sustained severe damage from a quake-triggered landslide, with the death of five staff and the panda Mao Mao. Fourteen of the 32 pens were destroyed.

The Conservation and Research Center might relocate because of safety concerns, Li said.

"According to the appraisal of an expert team, it is not appropriate to rebuild the damaged low-lying panda shelters and research center at the present site because aftershocks might bring secondary disasters, such as landslides," Li said.

He said the new facility, including shelters, a panda research center and a breeding center, would still be located within the Wolong Nature Reserve, deep in the hills north of Chengdu, Sichuan provincial capital, whose humid climate was favorable for bamboo, pandas' favorite food.

Wolong reserve has more than 150 pandas living in the wild. Eight pandas from the Wolong base were airlifted to Beijing Zoo last month where they will stay through the Olympics, and another six were taken to Sichuan's Ya'an base, which was less affected by the earthquake.

There are about 1,590 pandas living in the wild in China, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. Another 180 are being bred in captivity.

(Xinhua News Agency June 11, 2008)

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