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. Pandas facing enforced diet in China's quake zone

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 23, 2008
China's famed giant pandas are being forced to diet after last month's earthquake devastated large swathes of bamboo forest in the nation's southwest, state media and officials said.

The May 12 8.0-magnitude quake, which left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing, damaged bamboo forests in five areas close to a research base, sharply reducing supplies of the panda's staple food, Xinhua news agency said.

As a result, breeders are having to ration bamboo for the 67 endangered bears in the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Sichuan province.

"In average times, each adult panda is provided with 40 to 50 kilograms (88 to 110 pounds) of bamboo a day," said Lan Jingchao, an official at the breeding base.

"But now we can only offer them slightly more than half of that amount," he told AFP.

He said that transport problems had added to the shortage of bamboo shoots, which the bears particularly like because of their high water content.

Breeders are giving the pandas animal feed and fruit as they wait for new bamboo to grow, according to Sunday's report. The shortages come during the breeding season, when pandas need to eat more, it said.

"The pandas are definitely not all that happy with the food. Some are losing weight, but so far it's not so serious because the shortage hasn't lasted very long yet," Lan said.

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

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