2008 Earthquake

rescuse cubs
China Earthquake of May 12, 2008

Earthquake toll

Approximately 70,000 dead
Approximately 375,000 injured
About 20,000 missing
Millions homeless
Wolong Panda Center was just 7 miles from the earthquake epicenter

Human Toll
The exact toll on the residents living in the earthquake area of Sichuan Province is incalculable. The effects of losing so much will not be known for years to come. Five staff members of the Wolong Nature Reserve died in the earthquake, but fortunately no staff members of the actual Panda Center were killed.

Accessibility to the Center
The road to Wolong was rendered impassable since portions of bridges collapsed and parts of the road were totally taken out by rock slides. The road went through the epicenter of the earthquake. Thus the only access to Wolong was through poor dirt roads over high mountain passes.


Toll on the Wolong Panda Center 
There were 63 Giant Pandas at the Wolong Panda Center before the quake. One was killed while another remains missing and one died from illness following the earthquake. Several Giant Pandas had to be rescued from their enclosures and one Giant Panda, Gao Gao, was significantly injured.

Mao Mao, known to her caretaker as a sweet and playful mother of three, was crushed when the wall of her enclosure collapsed because of pressure from a dam of rocks and debris in the river.

Eighteen Giant Panda houses were destroyed and 14 others severely damaged. The Panda Center and its equipment were severely damaged as were the administration building and staff housing.

Dr. Li, Deputy Director, said the the Wolong Reserve faces the potential for severe secondary geological disasters. Landslides and mud-rock flows have occurred frequently and pose a serious threat to the safety of the surviving animals. June marked the start of the annual rainy season, which routinely causes the region’s fast flowing streams to flood their banks. Landslides were a particular concern because the quake caused hillsides to shear away and crash into river valleys below. Many slopes are unstable and are at high risk of being washed away by future storms.

The Giant Pandas thought to be pregnant were the first to be evaluated after the earthquake, including the rescued Gao Gao.

Then the remainder of the surviving Giant Pandas were moved to safe locations. New homes include the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base about 75 miles outside Sichuan’s provincial capital of Chengdu, in Ya’an (under the Wolong Authority) another breeding center in Chengdu itself, and facilities in the eastern province of Fujian and the southern province of Guangdong. Eight Giant Pandas were temporarily on display at the Beijing Zoo as part of the Olympics, but have since been returned to Bifengxia.

The quake hit during what the Chinese delicately call the “falling in love period,” a 24-to-72-hour window each spring when female pandas are fertile. More than a dozen captive Giant Pandas were artificially inseminated. There is no way of knowing what effect the earthquake would have on the pregnant females, but, after being safely moved to Bifengxia, they all went on to deliver healthy cubs, including Gao Gao.

Of the 63 Giant Pandas at Wolong that fateful day, Mao Mao was lost forever, Xiao Xiao is still missing, and Zhu Hai died from illness following the earthquake. The rest were moved to safety at Bifengxia, other Centers and zoos. The majority of Giant Pandas and staff regrouped at the Bifengxia Center. Pandas International has continued to supply formula for the cubs, replace and repair damaged incubators and research equipment, and provide annual veterinary needs.

Toll on Wild Pandas
It is not known how many wild pandas died. One unconfirmed report said 15 bodies had been found.

The bamboo forest was buried under mountainous landslides of rock and mud.
Forestry officials have said that about 80 percent of Sichuan’s Giant Panda habitat suffered some degree of damage from the quake. Mud is covering much of the bamboo. Having an adequate food supply has become a critical concern. In addition, slides may be blocking normal migratory corridors for both food and mating.

Replanting bamboo in the Wolong Nature Reserve is a major priority today.