Chinese Park Scrambles to Feed Hungry Pandas
BEIJING A nature reserve in western China is cooking up plans to find new food and feeding sites for hungry pandas because swathes of the bears' favourite snack, bamboo, are on the verge of flowering and withering away, the China Daily said on Monday.
The Baishuijiang State Nature Reserve in northwest Gansu Province planned to bring food to the at least 22 bears in the park facing starvation or push the endangered animals to migrate to areas where bamboo was healthy, the newspaper said.
"Workers in the reserve will move old and weak giant pandas and lure fit pandas to new habitats," Reserve Director Zhang Kerong was quoted as saying.
Some 12 percent of bamboo in the reserve had shown sign of flowering, a step in the plant's life cycle that occured just before it went to seed and died, the paper said.
"Giant pandas do not eat bamboo once it blooms, and it takes 10 years for a new supply to grow," the newspaper said, adding bamboo was also in bloom in other major panda habitats in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces.
Bamboo flowering across China in the early 1980s led to the deaths of around 250 of the notoriously finicky bears, it said.
China estimates more than 1,600 pandas live in the wild and about 140 live in captivity around the world.
Authorities in Gansu have asked local people to be tolerant of pandas that overcome their natural shyness to step out on their own to find food.
"The Baishuijiang reserve and the local government have spread the word about panda protection and asked locals not to harm the hungry animals if they roam around villages looking for food," China Daily said.