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China's Pandas face winter food shortages: report

The devastating Sichuan earthquake in May destroyed much of the wild pandas' habitat and devastated large swathes of bamboo forest, their staple diet.
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Dec 11, 2008
Giant pandas living in China's southwest quake-ravaged Sichuan province face the risk of starvation this winter due to severe food shortages, state media reported Thursday.

One panda had already died despite emergency efforts by the Wolong Panda Breeding Centre, China's best known reserve, and other centres have reported similar cases, the Shanghai Morning Post reported.

"Pandas are facing an extremely difficult winter as the earthquake destroyed much of their habitat and ruined most bamboo at low altitudes," Wolong's director Zhang Hemin was quoted as saying.

"We cannot rule out the possibility of more wild pandas falling ill or even dying during the winter," Zhang was quoted as saying.

The devastating Sichuan earthquake in May destroyed much of the wild pandas' habitat and devastated large swathes of bamboo forest, their staple diet.

Previous media reports said experts were considering relocating the Wolong centre, which was near the epicentre of the May 12, 8.0-magnitude earthquake, but it would take seven years to complete.

The centre was built in 1980 and has been at the forefront in the battle to save the endangered species as a leading site for captive panda breeding.

There are currently more than 150 wild pandas and 142 captive pandas at the centre. One captive panda died, one went missing and another was injured during the May 12 earthquake.

Zhang said the catastrophic earthquake also traumatised the pandas.

"Up until now, some pandas still walk extremely slowly as if worrying another aftershock could come at anytime, but we are giving them tender care to help them," Zhang said.

There are 1,400 wild pandas in the quake-hit region, representing about 88 percent of the country's total. Sichuan is their main home, with others living in nearby provinces.

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Eastern Caribbean to get early warning weather system
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