BEIJING – At least 80 percent of the habitat for giant pandas in China's earthquake-hit province was destroyed or damaged, a forestry official said Tuesday.
China's May 12 temblor centered in Sichuan devastated a vast area of wild habitat for endangered species, including the giant panda, Cao Qingyao, a spokesman for the State Forestry Administration, told reporters.
"We still cannot reach some of the local habitats, so it's impossible to assess the exact losses," Cao said.
The endangered panda is revered as a national symbol in China, where about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in Sichuan and the neighboring province of Shaanxi. Another 180 have been bred in captivity.
Forty-nine nature reserves, including the popular Wolong Nature Reserve, were damaged throughout Sichuan, Cao said, making up 2 million acres. The facility, which used to house 64 pandas, was badly damaged by the quake and one panda died.
The center remains closed to visitors, and might not open again until next year. Six pandas have been sent to another reserve in Sichuan, and eight have been sent to Beijing for an Olympics stay at the Beijing Zoo that was planned before the quake.
The earthquake also badly damaged forestry resources in the affected areas, Cao said. Direct economic losses to the forestry business were $3.3 billion and 232 forestry workers were killed, he said.