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Pandas relocated during Sichuan quake to return home by 2012: official
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A total of 60 giant pandas relocated from the Wolong base in southwest China's Sichuan Province after the 8.0-magnitude earthquake last year are expected to return their home in 2012, local authorities said.

The China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center of the Wolong nature reserve had 63 giant pandas in captivity before the May 12 quake, but one died and one was missing in the tremor. Another one died of illness on the way to hospital, said Luo Zengbin, deputy head of Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department.

The surviving pandas were moved to zoos in other parts of the country. Most were relocated to Bifengxia giant panda base in Ya'an City.

The earthquake also killed 12 panda protection workers, severely injured another 57, damaged 57,391 hectares of the pandas' habitat, he said.

The Wolong base is undergoing a 379 million yuan (55.5 million U.S.dollars) reconstruction program, which is expected to be completed by 2011.

Thirty giant pandas were born in Wolong and Chengdu bases in 2008, the most in the history of breeding the endangered animals. Another 18 were born this year, and all are alive, said Yang Xuyu, an official in charge of protecting wild animals in Sichuan.

About 1,590 pandas live in the wild in China, mostly in Sichuan and the northwest provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. Another 180 have been bred in captivity.

(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2009)

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