On-loan pandas set to go home | Shanghai Daily

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On-loan pandas set to go home

EIGHT pandas flown to Beijing last May to add cheer to the Olympics will return to their hometown in southwest China's Sichuan Province on Sunday, a Beijing Zoo official said yesterday.

The zoo's deputy chief, Zhang Jinguo, said the iconic bears would leave Beijing's Capital Airport at 11am on Sunday on a flight to the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Bifengxia.

After learning that the pandas will go home, crowds of zoo visitors flocked to take photos of the bears.

"I'm very fond of pandas, so I visit the zoo often," said a woman who lives in Beijing and would give only her surname, Liu. "I don't want them to go."

But another woman said they should return to Sichuan "because that region is their home where the environment is suitable for their survival."

Last May's devastating earthquake caused severe damage to the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong, where most of the country's captive pandas were kept. Wolong is just 30 kilometers from the epicenter of the 8.0-magnitude quake.

Five staff members of the panda base were killed, as was one captive panda. Two pandas were injured and six went missing, five of which were eventually found.

A donation drive to rebuild the damaged habitat started last June. After the earthquake, 50 or so pandas went to live at the Bifengxia base, while 20 others were sent to other zoos across the country, including the eight sent to Beijing.

Those pandas, selected from among 16 candidates at Wolong, were brought to the Beijing Zoo on May 24 last year.

The pandas have been living in three pens with constant temperature that is similar to their natural habitat. Their Beijing living quarters have wooden "trees," a mural and swimming pools.

Yang Changjiang, a keeper at Wolong who came to Beijing to care for the pandas, said the bears adapted well to the climate and life in Beijing, where they have attracted more than 2.1 million tourists so far.




 

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