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Pandas evacuated from earthquake-hit area in China

world Updated: Jun 24, 2008 15:30 IST

AP
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Pandas living in an earthquake-hit area in southwest China have been evacuated to temporary shelters because of the continuing threat of landslides and other hazards, a local forestry bureau report said on Tuesday.

Pandas from the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center in the world-renowned Wolong Nature Reserve will be evacuated to nearby areas, according to the report written by the Panda Protection office of the Sichuan Forestry Department.

Wolong was badly damaged by the May 12 quake, and the report said the pandas will have to stay in other areas until the center is rebuilt.

Six pandas from the centre were sent on Tuesday to a panda reserve at Bifengxia near Ya'an city 75 miles (120 kms) away, it said. Another 13 giant pandas were sent there last week.

A further 19 have been sent to a breeding research centre in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, and others to the eastern province of Fujian and the southern province of Guangdong.

June marks the start of the annual rainy season, which routinely causes rivers to overflow their banks.

Landslides are a particular concern because the earthquake caused steep hillsides to shear away and crash into river valleys below. Many slopes remain unstable and are at high risk of being washed away by rainstorms.

Wolong Nature Reserve was damaged by the quake, along with 48 others created in the province to protect the pandas and other endangered species.

It was not known how many wild pandas were killed.

The endangered panda is revered as an unofficial national symbol in China, the only country in which pandas are found in the wild.

Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild on steep, bamboo-covered mountains mostly in Sichuan and the neighboring province of Shaanxi. Another 180 have been bred in captivity.