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Pandas Get a Boost from Chicken Soup

Everyone needs some chicken soup for the soul - even pandas.

The Wuhan Zoo in central China has been feeding its two pandas home-cooked chicken soup to reduce stress and give them a nutritional boost, a zoo official said on Friday.

He Zhihua said 3-year-old Xiwang and Weiwei - literally meaning "Hope" and "Greatness" - had been tired and suffering from a little shock since Tuesday because of the holiday crowds.

On Wednesday, about 30,000 people swarmed the zoo and about 1,000 tourists packed the panda enclosure, shouting to get the animals' attention, He said. The pandas paced restlessly.

"They had been getting less sleep, and they had to run around more," he said. "We felt it would be good to give them the soup because they were fatigued and had a bit of a shock."

Reflecting the Chinese tradition of drinking slow-cooked chicken soup for health, the zookeepers boiled roosters in water overnight and added a pinch of salt to the concentrated stock.

The pandas were served one kilogram of soup in giant dishes, in addition to their regular diet of bamboo, milk and buns, He said.

The soup proved to be a hit.

"They drank it all like they drank their milk. They loved it," he said.

Pandas' diets usually consist mostly of bamboo, but they also can eat meat and He said in the wild they sometimes catch insects and small birds.

Xiwang and Weiwei arrived at the Wuhan Zoo in Hubei Province in June from the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province. The facility relocated most of its pandas after being damaged by the magnitude-8 earthquake on May 12.

The pair were first fed chicken soup on September 28 to help them brave the upcoming cold weather.

"Autumn is coming and we wanted them to have some more nutrition. It will be easier for them to pass the winter," He said. "We just wanted to see whether they liked the soup and whether it's good for their strength and whether they would have stomach problems."

When none appeared, the broth was served for a second time this week.

He said Dudu, another panda at the zoo, lived on milk and ground meat in the last 10 years of his life because his teeth could no longer tear at tough bamboo stalks. Dudu died in 1999.

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.

(Xinhua News Agency October 5, 2008)

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