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World's Largest Giant Panda Park Opens

The world's largest park for giant pandas has opened in southwest China's Sichuan Province with an initial group of 20 animals.

Located at Bifengxia Base of the China Giant Panda Research Center (CGPRC), Ya'an City, the park will cover an area of 400 hectares, of which 71.4 hectares has been completed.

"The per capita living area of the 20 giant pandas is over 3.33hectares, enough for them to enjoy an active and comfortable life," said Tang Chunxiang, an official with the CGPRC.

With an investment of 120 million yuan (14.46 million US dollars), the construction of the park began in April 2002. So far,16 standard shelters and auxiliary facilities, such as the research center and the veterinary center, have been completed.

"In an environment of high density, the possibility of disease spread among the pandas and in-breeding is greatly raised," said Zhang Guiquan, the deputy director of the CGPRC.

"With the commodious space, the new base will help the giant pandas maintain their natural instincts and lifestyles and improve their survival and reproductive capacities. As a result, they will be better for research," said Zhang.

Giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world. About 1,000 giant pandas still live in the wild, mainly in the mountains around the Sichuan Basin. The number of captive giant pandas is about 140.

Ya'an has exported 138 giant pandas to zoos or research institutions at home and abroad since 1949, accounting for 70 percent of the total from China.

(Xinhua News Agency December 29, 2003)

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