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Panda breeding base to be rebuilt by end of 2012

Rebuilding of China's Wolong Nature Reserve, a major giant panda breeding base ravaged by the massive earthquake in May 2008, is expected to start before the year-end, an official said.

The project, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012, 'will greatly improve the living quality and environment for both captive and wild pandas,' said Zhang Hemin, head of administration at the state-level reserve in Sichuan province.

Under the plan, the new reserve will include 65 facilities, including a panda protection and research center, a disease control center, a natural vegetation preservation center and mobile monitoring stations, 'which will play a key role in reestablishing the panda's population,' said Zhang.

In addition, a planned power grid, a key part of the project, will provide electricity to local residents and save wild forests that once provided them with fuel, Zhang said.

According to the plan, 737 households will be moved to new homes built in low-lying areas or river valleys as their original habitats were damaged in the quake.

The arrangement would prevent pandas living in highlands at an elevation of about 2,000 meters from being disturbed by human activities, said Zhang.

The rebuilding process will involve more than 2.1 billion yuan ($270 million) in investment from Hong Kong, the State Forestry Administration and the governments of Sichuan and Guangdong provinces.

The 2008 quake left one panda dead and another missing at the Wolong reserve, which was 10 kilometers from the epicenter.

The reserve has been in operation since 1963 and had 143 wild pandas in the third national panda count in 2000, accounting for 10 percent of the total in China. It had 128 captive pandas, 60 percent of the world's total.

Source: Xinhua
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