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. Most of panda habitat damaged or destroyed in China quake

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 17, 2008
Over 80 percent of the giant panda's habitat in China was damaged or destroyed by the earthquake that hit southwest Sichuan province, an official at the State Forestry Administration said Tuesday.

"In the earthquake, 83 percent of the giant panda's habitat was damaged or destroyed," Cao Qingyao, a spokesman for the administration, told reporters.

The fate of the pandas has been a cause of concern following the devastating May 12 quake, which cut off access to large swathes of mountainous areas, including China's largest panda breeding centre in Wolong, Sichuan.

A giant panda from the Wolong reserve has already been found dead after the 8.0-magnitude earthquake.

The 1,400 wild pandas in the quake-hit regions represent about 88 percent of the country's total of the endangered animals. Sichuan is their main home, with others living in nearby provinces.

"Due to current communication problems, it is still impossible to go deep into the mountains, so we are unable to assess the number of animal losses," Cao said.

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