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China Starts Building World's Largest Panda Breeding Base

Construction has begun on the world's largest giant panda breeding base at a major habitat in southwest China's Sichuan Province amid efforts to increase the population of the endangered animals.

Set in Gengda Town of Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, the one-square-kilometer base will be able to hold about 200 pandas.

Construction started on Friday and is expected to be finished later this year, said Zhang Hemin, administration director of the reserve, which comes under the State Forestry Administration.

"The new base, which stands at Huangcaoping, a primitive area 1,800 meters above sea level, is an ideal place for the protection of pandas," said Wang Pengyan, reserve vice director.

Besides pens for feeding and breeding, the base will also include a 19,400-square-meter zone for out-door activities, according to the plan.

Thanks to the advancing breeding technology, the number of pandas in captivity in the reserve has increased to 130 from ten, but the current facility is not enough for them to breed, Zhang said.

"Pandas are solitary animals, but many have to share pens, causing infections and fights."

The Wolong nature reserve founded in 1963 is the largest panda reserve in China. It has an area of 200,000 hectares with more than 150 pandas living in wildness.

The giant panda, known for being sexually inactive, is among the world's most endangered animals due to shrinking habitat.

China has 239 giant pandas in captivity. About 1,590 pandas are thought to be living in China's wilderness, mainly in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.

(Xinhua News Agency April 20, 2008)

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