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US$290 million proposed to rebuild panda reserve
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Chinese experts have drawn up a plan to rebuild the quake-devastated Wolong nature reserve, a major habitat of giant pandas in southwestern Sichuan Province, with an investment of 2 billion yuan (US$290 million).

The giant panda research center in the reserve, wrecked by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake on May 12, would be moved from its Hetaoping base to Huangcaoping, according to a rebuilding plan submitted to Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department and the State Forestry Administration.

During the quake, a total of 6,117 hectares of vegetation in the reserve were severely damaged by landslides and mudslides. Panda caves collapsed. Bamboo was buried or destroyed, threatening the life and health of pandas. Five staff at the base and one panda were killed in the quake.

According to the plan drawn up by the Wolong reserve, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the new panda research center includes a 650-square meter lab, a panda hospital, a 1500-square meter cub pen, a bamboo planting field and a place to accustom pandas to wild life.

Zhang Hemin, head of the Wolong reserve, told Xinhua that the plan was the best by far among several options. However, he said, the plan was still under deliberation and wouldn't turn into reality unless it was backed by other relevant departments.

According to the plan, the rebuilding would be completed by 2015, he said.

The reserve would employ satellite remote sensing to track the pandas' activities and the environment, the report said.

In addition, a panda disease control and prevention center would be built in Dujiangyan, a city near the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu. In the future, pandas in any breeding base in China would be transferred here for treatment in case they contracted infectious diseases, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Tuesday.

The 200,000-hectare Wolong reserve was established in 1963 in the southwest of Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the earthquake. It houses more than 150 pandas living in the wild and 56 animal species and 24 endangered plants under national protection.

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

All About Giant pandas, May 12 earthquake

(Xinhua News Agency July 8, 2008)

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An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale jolted Sichuan Province at 2:28 PM on May 12.

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