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Giant Pandas to Have Larger Habitat at 'No. 1 Home Place'

Baoxing county, in southwest China's Sichuan Province, plans to spend 180 million yuan (about US$21.8 million) to build a giant panda protection and tourism zone.

With a designated area of 1,200 sq km, the Baoxing Jiajin Mountain Giant Panda Ecological Tourism Zone will comprise the state-level Fengtongzhai giant panda nature reserve, a safari park, a station for panda observation and a state forest park.


The official said that expansion of protection zones would play a vital role in avoiding in breeding and helping increase the number of the rare creatures.


The world's first giant panda was discovered in Baoxing county in 1869. Currently, more than 140 giant pandas live in the Fengtongzhai Nature Reserve in the county, accounting for more than 10 percent of the national total.


An official with the nature reserve said that Baoxing county had invested more than 2.5 million yuan (some US$30,000) in building a nature reserve for the pandas, which covers 400 square kilometers.


Giant pandas are said to have been around during the time of dinosaurs and regarded as a "national gem" of China.


About 1,590 giant pandas still live in the wild, mostly in the high mountains around Sichuan Basin, and 160 live in captivity.


The central and provincial governments have invested 160 million yuan (nearly US$20 million) into panda protection programs since 1992.


China built its first natural preserve for giant pandas and began to ban poaching in the 1950s. The pandas have been under state protection since 1962.


(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2004)

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