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'Olympic Pandas' to Get Longer Stay in Capital

Eight pandas flown to Beijing in May to add cheer to the Olympics are doing well and will probably stay in the capital until the end of the year, which is when their quake-damaged home in Sichuan Province is likely to be rebuilt, sources with Beijing Zoo have said.

Zhang Jinguo, the zoo's deputy chief, was quoted by Thursday's Legal Affairs Evening News as saying the bears, all aged between 1 and 2, had all put on 1.5 to 2kg in weight during their stay.

"They are fully adapted to the climate and life here," Zhang, said, adding that rebuilding their home in Wolong base was another reason they had to stay. They were originally supposed to go home in October.

The cubs are in a newly expanded glass enclosure, where wooden "trees", a mural and swimming pools create a homely environment. They live in three pens held at a constant temperature, similar to their natural habitat.

The bears usually wake up at about 7:00 AM and go to bed at about 6:00 PM, Zhang said.

When they first arrived, the cubs had only poor appetites and ate just 2-3kg of bamboo a day, he said.

"But now their appetites are much better and they have put on weight."

The pandas also eat carrots and apples, and drink milk, which helps them keep their shiny fur, he said.

The earthquake caused severe damage to the Wolong base. Five employees were killed, as was one captive panda. Two pandas were injured and six went missing, five of which were later found.

A donation drive to pay for the reconstruction of the reserve was launched in June. "The cubs won't leave until their new home is ready," Zhang said.

(China Daily / Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2008)

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