Chinese Panda Nursery Damaged in Quake

Posted on June 17, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Wolong staff mourns Mao Mao

(AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

If you’ve watched many Animal Planet or PBS nature shows, you’re probably familiar with the Wolong Giant Panda Sanctuary, where the Chinese raise bouncing baby pandas. They’ve developed a knack for breeding the rare creatures, who are notoriously reserved but utterly-charming-to-humans.

Recently, Wolong staffers have been making do as best they can after last month’s major earthquake. After shocks, a loss of power and rockslides have been the source of continued damage. The road into the remote facility only recently became passable. (See updates from the National Zoo.) The staff sleeps in unheated, chilly tents. Funds trickle in from worried panda lovers, especially via Pandas International, a Littleton, CO,-based charity that helps zoos with pandas and panda reserves.

But, despite the disaster-provoked privations, what has the Wolong staff rattled the most is the single known casualty of the quake: a 9-year-old female panda named Mao Mao, who was recently found underneath the rubble from her enclosure. The AP photo shows the staff mourning her and describes their loss in this story.

The program at Wolong is hands-on and hearts-engaged.

The future of the pandas remains more uncertain than ever. Besides the threat from the unstable mountains, what has staff worried deeply is that one is still missing. According to a recent Washington Post article, they hope he ran off into the surrounding countryside — but that gives little comfort.

According to Post correspondent Jill Drew’s article, the quake could have yet-untold impact upon the China’s tiny wild panda population, already feared to be locked onto a slow boat to extinction before the quake.

“With its low birthrate and small numbers — fewer than 2,000 pandas are thought to live in the wild and only about 230 live in captivity — the species’ hold on survival is tenuous. The earthquake hit at the height of breeding season, and its path cut through the prime swath of wild panda habitat.”

Bottom line: no one knows how many of those pandas that live out in those rocky wooded hills are okay, let alone might still be alive. And that includes Wolong’s missing panda.

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