BON APPETIT!: Gao Qiang feeds giant pandas at Bifengxia Panda Base on April 13, 2011 (SHI GANG)
On the morning of April 13, Gao Qiang, a panda keeper at the Bifengxia Panda Base of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), was ready to greet a new day.
Gao started by preparing carrots, bamboo shoots and steamed corn bread for the giant pandas. After he cleaned the outdoor playground, he washed the enclosure with water and antiseptic as the pandas finished their meals.
The year 2011 is Gao's third year at the facility. His daily routine consists of feeding giant pandas and cleaning their domiciles.
Established on December 28, 2003, by the State Forestry Administration, the Bifengxia Panda Base is affiliated with the Administration Bureau of the Wolong National Nature Reserve. Covering an area of 1,075 mu (about 71.6 hectares), the facility is located at the Bifengxia scenic area, some 150 km away from Chengdu, the capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province, with an average height of 1,050 meters above sea level.
The 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Wenchuan County on May 12, 2008 devastated the ecosystem of Wolong National Nature Reserve, located a mere 30 km from the epicenter. Around 70 percent of Wolong's giant pandas were transferred to the Bifengxia Panda Base, making it the largest facility for panda protection and research in China.
A cozy haven
According to Professor Tang Chunxiang, assistant director of the Bifengxia Panda Base, reliable methods of breeding giant pandas in captivity have become more mature since the late 1990s. Wolong was home to around 90 pandas. Experts were concerned that any extensive infectious disease or natural calamity would cause considerable harm to the pandas in the area.
To ensure the pandas' safety and reduce the potential risks, a new panda base was launched in Bifengxia, a perfect place for giant pandas with favorable temperature and abundant bamboo.
Soon after the quake, the staff and basic facilities at Wolong were relocated to Bifengxia. Moreover, an emergency allocation was distributed by the government for panda relocation, facilities reconstruction and vegetation recovery.