BEIJING – Only seven pandas remain at China's most famous breeding center, after a final group of 13 animals were transferred from the earthquake-damaged facility, an official said Tuesday.
Most of the pandas at the Wolong Nature Reserve, tucked in the lush mountains of Sichuan province, had already been moved following the powerful May 12 quake that rattled Sichuan province and killed nearly 70,000 people.
The quake killed at least one panda and left the Wolong center vulnerable to aftershocks and landslides.
The 13 giant pandas arrived at the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base in the Sichuan province town of Ya'an on Monday night, said Li Desheng, research director at Wolong. Only seven 1-year-old cubs remained at the center.
"This is because the staff at Wolong really loves pandas, and they wanted to keep some little ones," he said in a telephone interview. "They are the hope for the future reconstruction of the panda base."
There were 63 pandas living at the Wolong center when the quake struck. The others have been moved to Bifengxia and a breeding center in the provincial capital of Chengdu. Facilities in the Chinese capital of Beijing, the eastern province of Fujian and the southern province of Guangdong are also keeping Wolong pandas.
The Wolong reserve is at the heart of China's effort to use captive breeding and artificial insemination to save the giant panda, which is revered as an unofficial national mascot. Plans for the facility's reconstruction have not been decided, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, an 8-year-old panda evacuated from Wolong gave birth to a set of twins on Monday at her new home in Bifengxia, state broadcaster CCTV reported. News footage showed a staffer holding a newborn panda, hairless and squirming, in an incubator.
Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in Sichuan. An additional 180 have been bred in captivity, many of them at Wolong, and scores have been loaned or given to zoos abroad, with the revenues helping fund conservation programs.