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Pandas score a perfect 10 for Expo

2009. 18 December

by Lu Feiran
( TEN pandas from southwest China's Sichuan Province will soon arrive at Shanghai's two zoos in a promotional coup for the organizers of the city's 2010 World Expo.

The four males and six females would stay for a year, the first half at Shanghai Zoo and the second at Shanghai Wildlife Park, officials said yesterday at the city government's weekly press conference.

The pandas will set off from Ya'an, in western Sichuan, at the earliest in January, according to the officials.

Their first port of call would be Shuangliu International Airport in the provincial capital of Chengdu and from there they would be airlifted to Shanghai in a chartered flight, officials from the Shanghai Forest Administrative Bureau told the conference.

"The departure date will be decided according to weather conditions," said Cai Youming, deputy director of the forest bureau.

Staff of the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center will prepare milk powder and bamboo for the jet-setting pandas' trip to the big smoke.

All 10 pandas were born after the massive earthquake in May last year at the center's Bifengxia base in Ya'an.

The cubs have grown into healthy young pandas with vastly different characters, according to Li Disheng, director of the center. These traits include naughtiness, elegance, laziness and even narcissism.

"We believe all visitors to Shanghai during the World Expo will be captivated by them," Li said.

Among the 10, male-female twins Ping Ping and An An were the first cubs born after the earthquake.

Their mother, Guo Guo, was rescued by carers when the quake hit Wolong and transferred to Ya'an. The twins were born on August 7 last year.

Ping Ping and An An, meaning "safe" and "peace" in Chinese, were the names given by Chinese Netizens after a nationwide poll.

"The names expressed people's best wishes for them," Li said.

Another panda, Ao Yun, meaning "The Olympics" in Chinese, was born on August 8 last year, the day when the Beijing Olympic Games opened.

Though having such a sports-oriented name, Ao Yun is "a quiet and gentle child," according to Li.

The pandas will undergo a period of quarantine and observation at Shanghai Zoo before meeting the public.

The Wolong center will send four carers and a veterinarian to oversee the pandas' stay in Shanghai.

The two zoos have started preparations for a red-carpet welcome for the special guests.

Shanghai Zoo, which already has three older giant pandas, has finished reconstruction of its panda house to accommodate the new star arrivals, while the wildlife park will soonfollow suit.

The park has planted a bamboo garden and the zoo has established bamboo supply bases in the Sheshan area in the city's Songjiang District and in Anji in Zhejiang Province.

Pandas are threatened by loss of habitat and a low reproduction rate. Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two or three years.

The fertility rate of captive giant pandas is even lower.

There are about 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu.

China has built 62 giant panda nature reserves that cover 3.2 million hectares and are home to 70 percent of the animals in the wild, according to the State Forestry Administration.