Pan­das get front-row seats to earth­quakes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS -

When­ever a strong earth­quake hits South­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince, panda lovers across the world feel their stom­achs tighten with worry.

A mag­ni­tude 7.0 earth­quake rip­pled through Ji­uzhaigou county, a pop­u­lar scenic area for tourists, at 9:19 pm on Tues­day, af­ter orig­i­nat­ing 20 kilo­me­ters be­low the earth’s surface.

The China Con­ser­va­tion and Re­search Cen­ter for the Gi­ant Panda quickly con­firmed that the base’s staff and an­i­mals, 400 km from the epi­cen­ter, were not af­fected.

Pre­lim­i­nary checks con­firmed that no pan­das were hurt and their breed­ing houses in the cen­ter’s sev­eral re­serves re­mained in­tact.

How­ever, the earth­quake was near a panda mi­gra­tion cor­ri­dor and might have some ef­fect on the wild pop­u­la­tion in the area, ac­cord­ing to Gu Xiaodong, deputy di­rec­tor of a lo­cal wildlife pro­tec­tion sta­tion.

Gi­ant pan­das live mainly in the moun­tains of Sichuan and neigh­bor­ing Shaanxi and Gansu prov­inces. Be­cause of habi­tat loss and low birthrates, only about 1,800 pan­das still live in the wild, while some 300 live in cap­tiv­ity.

Panda re­serves cover about 60 per­cent of their nat­u­ral habi­tat and are home to 70 per­cent of wild pop­u­la­tion.

They live mostly in Sichuan, where earth­quakes and frag­men­ta­tion of habi­tat have af­fected breed­ing pat­terns.

Se­condary dis­as­ters, such as rock slides and barrier lakes, also change the habi­tat, cut off food sources and in­crease risks to the wild pop­u­la­tion.

On May 12, 2008, a mag­ni­tude 8.0 quake dam­aged Sichuan’s Wo­long Panda Re­serve. Most of its pan­das and staff were trans­ferred to an­other fa­cil­ity in Ya’an, 140 kilo­me­ters from Chengdu, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal.

That fa­cil­ity fell vic­tim to sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances when a mag­ni­tude 7.0 earth­quake hit Lushan county on April 20, 2013. The cen­ter re­ported min­i­mal dam­age, and all its 61 pan­das were un­in­jured.

A new panda breed­ing and re­search cen­ter, spon­sored by the gov­ern­ment of the Hong Kong Special Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion, has been built on less rugged ter­rain in the Wo­long re­serve. It can ac­com­mo­date 80 cap­tive pan­das.

Two years af­ter the quake, Wo­long restarted its pro­gram of train­ing cap­tive-bred pan­das to live in the wild.

Gu said that af­ter the 2008 quake a gi­ant panda res­cue plan was in­tro­duced. Lo­cal res­i­dents are re­quired to re­port sight­ings of any in­jured panda to a wild an­i­mal pro­tec­tion cen­ter, which will send vet­eri­nar­i­ans and cen­ter staff to check its con­di­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.