Pandas headed to Shanghai for 2010 Expo

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BEIJING (AP) — Ten giant panda cubs, all born after the deadly earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan province in 2008, were on their way Tuesday to Shanghai to go on display during this year’s World Expo, a zoo official said.

Six female and four male pandas from the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center in Sichuan were to arrive Tuesday evening to spend six months at the Shanghai Zoo and then six months at the Shanghai Wildlife Zoo, said a spokeswoman for the Shanghai Zoo. Like many Chinese officials, she would give only her surname, Tan.

All 10 of the pandas were born at Wolong after a massive earthquake struck Sichuan in May 2008, showing that the breeding process there is back on track after the reserve was nearly destroyed. The quake killed or left missing nearly 90,000 people.

The Shanghai Zoo, which already has three older giant pandas, has refurbished its panda house to accommodate the new arrivals, including an indoor and outdoor complex that will include a slide, wooden climbing devices and walkways, and a grassy knoll for lounging, Tan said.

The Expo will run for six months beginning May 1 and is expected to draw 70 million visitors, mostly Chinese.

Pandas are threatened by loss of habitat, poaching and a low reproduction rate. Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two or three years, and the fertility rate of captive giant pandas is even lower.

Only about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in southwestern Sichuan province. An additional 120 pandas are in Chinese breeding facilities and zoos, and about 20 live in zoos outside China.