Image: Pandas with keeper
Ma Qibin  /  AP
A keeper plays with two pandas at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, on Sunday.
updated 6/24/2008 5:22:56 AM ET 2008-06-24T09:22:56

Pandas living in an earthquake-hit part of southwestern China have been evacuated to temporary shelters due to the continuing threat of landslides and other hazards, a forestry bureau report said Tuesday.

The May 12 Sichuan province quake caused severe damage in the Wolong Nature Reserve, and the report said pandas from it's Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center will have to stay elsewhere until the center is rebuilt.

The area's annual rainy season starts in June, and rivers routinely overflow their banks. Landslides are a particular concern because the quake caused steep hillsides to shear away and crash into valleys below. Many of the slopes remain unstable and at risk of being washed away by rainstorms.

Video: Ensuring the panda's survival The evacuated pandas will be moved to nearby areas, according to the report by the Sichuan Forestry Department's Panda Protection office.

Six pandas from the center were sent Tuesday to a reserve near Ya'an city, 75 miles away, it said. Another 13 were sent there last week.

A further 19 have been sent to a breeding research center in Sichuan's capital, Chengdu, and others to the eastern province of Fujian and the southern province of Guangdong.

National symbol
Along with Wolong Nature Reserve, the quake damaged 48 others created in the province to protect the pandas and other endangered species.

It was not known how many wild pandas died in the quake.

The endangered panda is revered as an unofficial national symbol in China, the world's only country in which the animals are found in the wild.

Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild on steep, bamboo-covered mountains, mostly in Sichuan and the neighboring province of Shaanxi. Another 180 have been bred in captivity.

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