Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Olympic Pandas" bear up well in Beijing; likely to stay until year-end

Eight pandas who were flown to Beijing in May to add cheer to the Olympics are doing well and will probably stay in the capital until year-end, which is when their quake-damaged habitat in Sichuan Province is likely to be rebuilt.

"Olympic pandas" play together at the Beijing Zoo in Beijing, capital of China, July 29, 2008. The eight "Olympic pandas", nominated by netizens to add cheers to the Beijing Olympic Games, have witnessed more than one million visitors since their arrival in Beijing from the Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province on June 5.

Thursday's Legal Affairs Evening News quoted Zhang Jinguo, deputy chief of the Beijing Zoo, as saying that the bears, aged one to two, had all put on 1.5 kg to 2 kg during their stay in the zoo.

"They are fully adapted to the climate and life here in Beijing," said Zhang, who added that rebuilding their home at the Wolong base was another reason they had to stay. They were originally supposed to go home in October.

The cubs are in a newly expanded glass enclosure, where wooden "trees," a mural and swimming pools create a homey environment.

The pandas live in three pens held at a constant temperature, similar to their natural habitat. They were expected to attract 6 million domestic and foreign tourists during their six-month stay in the capital.

They were selected from among 16 candidates at the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong Town, only 30 km from the epicenter of the devastating May 12 earthquake.

At their newfound home, they usually get out of bed at 7 a.m. and prowl their enclosure until about 6 p.m.

According to Zhang, in their first days in Beijing, the cubs had a poor appetite and could only chow down 2 kg to 3 kg of bamboo a day.

"Now their appetite has become so good that they eat twice as much and they're putting on weight."

The pandas also eat carrots, apples and milk, which is said to produce the fine sheen of their fur. They also got a weekly shampoo ahead of the Olympics.

Except for Fengyi, the youngest of the eight, who suffered from a minor case of worms upon arrival, the animals have been healthy.

The earthquake caused severe damage to the Wolong base. Five staff were killed, as was one captive panda. Two pandas were injured and six went missing, five of which were eventually found.

A donation drive to rebuild the damaged habitat started in early June.

"The cubs won't return before workers complete the rebuilding, which for sure can't be done in October," said Zhang.

Source: Xinhua

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