102 pandas missing at reserve in Gansu

(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-29 18:58

More than 100 giant pandas have been missing at a nature reserve in Gansu Province since an 8.0-magnitude quake struck Sichuan Province on May 12, a newspaper reported.

All 102 pandas at Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve in Gansu, which claims to be world's biggest reserve for panda in terms of area, have gone missing since May 12, Lanzhou Morning Post reported Thursday.

The epicenter of the quake, Sichuan's Wenchuan County, was about 250 kilometers from the reserve. Numerous aftershocks have also rocked the region.

The disaster blocked roads in the reserve and caused landslides that made the area difficult for staff to rescue the animals, which are unique to China, the report said.

A team of 16 scientists, who were studying the pandas when the quake occurred, reported that they heard animals screaming as rocks and trees fell during the disaster, the report said.

The quake has changed the pandas' habitat including heavy damage to bamboo trees, the animal's main food, Huang Chengxiang, deputy director of the reserve, told the newspaper.

Besides, the catastrophe may also affect mating this year, Huang added as May is when pandas usually copulate.

The reserve will send staff to rescue the pandas as soon as conditions permit, Huang said.

The reserve was set up in 1978 with an area of 223,000 hectares. It has 10 species under first-class protection including giant pandas and golden monkeys. It is also home to 42 animals with second-class protection and six plants under top protection, the report said.

China has a total of more than 1,590 pandas in the wild in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

Sichuan, the worst-hit province, is home to 75 percent of wild pandas while Shaanxi has 17 percent and Gansu 10 percent.

All 86 giant pandas at the China Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Sichuan are safe and well, according to the State Forestry Administration.

Sixty pandas at a research base in Chengdu were also safe.

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