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China's inbreeding pandas given more space
Updated: 2004-08-25 14:04

China is trying to stop its pandas, rebounding from the brink of extinction, from inbreeding by building them a giant safari park, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

A panda couple in mating period [newsphoto]
The new Baoxing Jiajin Mountain Giant Panda Ecological Tourism Zone in the southwest province of Sichuan had a planned area of 463 sq miles, three times larger than the existing reserve, Xinhua said.

"Expansion of protection zones will play a vital role in avoiding inbreeding and helping increase the number of the rare creatures," it quoted a park official as saying.

The 180 million yuan ($21.75 million) project would comprise the existing Fengtongzhai reserve, a safari park, a station for panda observation and a state forest park, it said.

Said to date back to the time of dinosaurs, around 1,590 giant pandas still live in the wild, most in the mountains around Sichuan.

Of the 160 in captivity, 140 are in the Fengtongzhai reserve, Xinhua said. They have been under state protection since 1962.

Chinese forestry officials said earlier this summer that pandas were rebounding from the brink of extinction, thanks to an improved and expanded habitat, but that they were not out of the woods yet.

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