Pandas Survive Quake, But Some Face Other Threats

Xinhua reports that the 61 giant pandas at the Bifengxia breeding center were not physically harmed by the 6.6Mw earthquake that struck Sichuan province on Saturday, killing 193 and injuring over 12,000:

According to the video captured by the camera surveillance, when the quake occurred at 8:02 a.m. Saturday, the were slack-jawed for a while, and then some of them climbed onto trees, and some others fled to somewhere else they believed safe, said Heng Yi, a spokesman with the base.

“Those daring ones remained calm, while the timid ones suffered from shock,” he said, adding the pandas needs extra care and even psychological therapy.

Breeders provided abundant food for the pandas to assure them “nothing is wrong,” and for those young cubs who were scared the most, breeders will play with them to ease their tense, said a director surnamed Wang in charge of animal management of the base.

“Breeders’ close-distance communications will help comfort the pandas,” said Wang.

The welfare of wild pandas in the regions’ several nature reserves has yet to be established. Those in the nearby Nine Peaks reserve, near the epicenter of the 2008 earthquake, face a longer-term challenge, however. According to Greenpeace, phosphate mining has been encroaching on the reserve, forcing the pandas into “an ever smaller and fragmented” habitat. From Luna Lin at chinadialogue:

The central part of Longmen Mountain, where the giant panda lives, is China’s fifth largest area for phosphate production and accounts for more than 10% of the nation’s total annual production.

However, despite its huge mineral reserve, the region is seen by many as unsuitable for due to its vulnerability to natural disasters, as shown by the major earthquake in Sichuan province this weekend. Yang Yong, Hengduan Mountain Research Society’s senior geological engineer, said further exploitation by groups would increase the threat of geological disasters in this disaster-prone area.

[…] Initially, the popularity of the panda prevented any boundary changes. However, between 2010 and 2012 phosphate prices rose from less than 100 yuan to more than 500 yuan per tonne. And by August 2012, Sichuan’s provincial government had approved the boundary adjustment application, with the 325-hectare Suopengzi area, the hinterland of giant panda’s habitat, transferred outside the reserve.

See more on last weekend’s earthquake and its aftermath on CDT.

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