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Pandas' habitat ravaged by landslides
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The May 12 earthquake seriously damaged wild giant pandas' habitats, compounding difficulties of conservation work to save the endangered species, experts said.

Yang Baijin, secretary-general of China Wildlife Conservation Association, said: "The quake's destruction of many major conservation zones in southwest China is a great loss."

Huang Huali, director of the administration bureau of the Baishuijiang national natural reserve in Gansu province, said continuous aftershocks have caused landslides and road disruptions at the conservancy, which is 250 km from the epicenter.

"We couldn't travel deep into the mountains to check the conditions of the reserve's pandas," Huang said, adding there hadn't been any reported panda deaths or injuries since the disaster.

However, Huang said he was concerned the pandas will not be able to live normally, as the disaster halted monitoring and protection work.

Huang Chenxiang, deputy director of the bureau, added that pandas at the center might face food shortages.

"Many of the bamboo forests were partially buried by landslides," he said.

The bureau director also pointed to concerns the mental stress caused by the quake could influence the May mating season. Currently, 102 pandas, or about 10 percent of China's panda population, live at the reserve.

The bureau has made preparations and will send teams to check on the pandas' habitats as soon as possible, Huang Huali said.

The China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong, Sichuan province, transferred 14 pandas to Beijing and another nearby center after the quake destroyed nearly half of its cages. One of its 63 pandas is still missing.

Official figures show 1,590 pandas live in the wild in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. Sichuan is home to 1,200, or 75 percent, of China's wild pandas, while Shaanxi has 270, or 18 percent.

(China Daily May 31, 2008)

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