MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) – Giant pandas from a sanctuary located near the epicenter of the deadly 7.0-magnitude earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province are shocked and require special care, China’s Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.
Heng Yi, a spokesman with the Bifengxia Panda Base, located some 50 kilometers from the epicenter, said though a group of animals remained calm when the earthquake stroke on Saturday morning, many others “suffered from shock” and require extra care and even psychological therapy.
A director in charge of animal management identified only by his surname, Wang, told the agency that zoo workers give abundant food to the animals to assure them that "nothing is wrong." He said breeders also play with young cubs, who were scared the most, in a bid to “ease their tense,” the agency said.
“Close-distance communications will help comfort the pandas," he said.
The facility is home to 61 giant pandas, and more than a half of them were taken there five years ago, when the Wolong Natural Reserve they were living in was destroyed by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake that killed some 70,000 people.
The Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment magazine reported in 2009 that the 2008 earthquake destroyed nearly 23 percent of pandas’ natural habitat. The survey, based on satellite and on-site observation, revealed that the quake damaged 354 square kilometers of the region’s bamboo forests and had a negative impact of nearly 60 percent of all pandas living in the wild.
The 7.0-magnitude quake struck the Lushan county of Sichuan's Ya'an city at 8:02 a.m. Saturday Beijing Time, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center. Some 1,165 aftershocks have been detected, with the biggest one registering 5.8 magnitude. Reuters reported on Monday that the death toll stands at 208 people.