Repairs at China's famous Wolong Panda Breeding Center have begun, nearly eight months after it sustained heavy damage in a magnitude 7.9 earthquake, the facility's director said Friday.
The repairs at the center in southwestern China's Sichuan province were expected to take three years, director Zhang Hemin said.
Pandas living at the facility when the quake struck will eventually be moved back, but it will depend on the progress of construction, Zhang said in a telephone interview.
At least one panda was killed in Wolong, which is just 20 miles away from the epicenter of the quake. Most of the 63 pandas living there were relocated afterward.
Wolong officials had previously said they wanted to find a new home for the pandas after the May 12 quake that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing. The temblor destroyed enclosures and administrative buildings, and sent rocks, soil and vegetation crashing down hillsides and into river valleys.
The Wolong reserve is at the heart of China's effort to use captive breeding and artificial insemination to save the giant panda, which is revered as an unofficial national mascot.
Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in Sichuan. An additional 180 have been bred in captivity — many of them at Wolong — and scores have been lent or given to zoos abroad.