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China has sent emergency relief to its Wolong Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in the Sichuan earthquake zone - home to 53 of the endangered creatures.

The centre lies north of the provincial capital Chengdu, and just 30km from the epicentre of the devastating 12 May quake which claimed an estimated 50,000 lives, Reuters reports. Among the dead were 47 people living around the site, and the pandas faced a shortage of essential bamboo because, unsurprisingly, "people stopped collecting it from the mountains after the quake", as China Daily put it.

The centre's pandas suffered 35 seriously injured casualties in the disaster, which received medical treatment. Six disappeared, but by Tuesday four had returned, while eight selected to "entertain tourists" during the Olympics have been shipped to Chengdu en route to Beijing.

Those left at the badly-damaged centre will benefit from "4,500 kg of bamboo, 1,050 kg of bamboo shoots and huge quantities of apples, soybean, eggs, milk powder and other food items" dispatched by the government.

According to Reuters, the majority of China's 1,590 wild pandas reside in Sichuan, with other populations in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. Around 180 have been bred in captivity. ®

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