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Panda biscuits roll off production line in SW China
( 2003-11-09 11:26) (Xinhua)

China's giant pandas are expected to be licking their lips after the country's first panda biscuit factory was approved by experts in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Considering the habits of giant pandas, the special biscuit, developed by the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center,is shaped like bamboo and is about 15 centimeters long, said Yu Jianqiu, researcher in charge of the project.

The cream-colored biscuit, made of bamboo, was rich in vitaminsand trace elements and the fiber content was up to 30 percent, said Yu.

Steamed bread, the staple food for most captive giant pandas after fresh bamboo, lost much of its nutritional value in cooking,resulting in malnutrition for many pandas. In addition, the storage period of steamed bread was short while the cost was relatively high.

Each panda cost over 40,000 yuan (4,800 US dollars) a year to feed, said Yu.

The center built the factory in October and 30 pandas in the center have tasted the biscuits.

"They seemed to love our new recipe very much as they all have a good appetite for the biscuits. Later all the pandas in captivity across the country will be provided with the new food," said Yu.

Experts estimate that 1,000 giant pandas live in the wild in high mountains around the Sichuan Basin in southwest China, while about 140 live in captivity around the world.

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