Giant pandas are facing a tough winter in their Sichuan home this year after last May's earthquake wrecked their habitat. Some are in such a distressed state that they are turning up at farmers' doors to "ask for help" according to a vet at the Bifengxia Giant Panda Breeding Center.
A file photo of giant pandas living at the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province.
On November 17, Xinhuanet.com reported that in the past few weeks two giant pandas had been taken to the Bifengxia Breeding Center after being found sick and starving. One of the two unfortunately died despite the best efforts of veterinarians. The other is recovering.
"Giant pandas will ask local residents for help if they are really starving or ill," said Tang Chunxiang, director of the Veterinary Hospital in the Bifengxia Breeding Center. "There are likely to be many sick pandas in the wild this winter because of the earthquake. Caring for them is going to be a huge challenge for the panda breeding centers."
The latest panda survey counted 1206 pandas in Sichuan Province, comprising 75 percent of the total population in the wild. Most of them live at altitudes from 2,500 to 3,200 meters.
According to Tang, it is quite common for sick pandas to seek help from humans towards the end of winter, but for the breeding centers to have already taken two pandas into care so early in the season is very unusual. Tang said the centers will have to make special plans to take care of the increased numbers of pandas likely to need help.
Sichuan's Wolong Nature Reserve administers three giant panda breeding centers, in Wolong, Gengda and Bifengxia. At present they house 142 captive-bred pandas.
(China.org.cn by Ma Yujia, November 18, 2008)