Guo Guo, a 10-year-old female Giant Panda, lived in the Qiong Lai mountains at the Wolong Panda Reserve. On the morning of May 12, 2008, she was enjoying the morning sunshine as usual when the world around her literally came crashing down. When the earthquake hit, Guo Guo ran to the edge of her enclosure where the large rocks had always protected her; but now were threatening her life. She climbed up onto a large rock that had fallen in her yard and sat frozen as the earthquake destroyed her home.
The staff at the Wolong Panda Center saw what was happening and rushed to Guo Guo’s side but she was too scared to move. In order to get her to safety and away from the falling rocks, staff had to give her an anesthetic. Given her size, it took a good number of staff members to carry her out of her enclosure. Fortunately, she had only minor injuries and both she and the 54-day-old cub she was carrying were safe. The next hurdle was evacuating them, along with the other pregnant pandas, to a safer location.
The massive earthquake and subsequent aftershocks damaged Panda houses, knocked down enclosure walls, and sadly took the life of one panda, Mao Mao. The highway to Wolong was also completely destroyed. In many places it was simply ripped away from the side of the mountain.
The only way to reach the remote Panda Center of Wolong was to cross the 14,764 foot Balang Mountain of the Four Sisters Mountain Range. The 347-mile rescue trip took more than ten hours over steep, dangerous, damaged dirt roads. In many places, rescuers were navigating around rock and mud slides.
Finally, Guo Guo arrived at the Bifengxia Panda Center, a sister Center to Wolong, where she was finally safe. On July 6, 2008, Guo Guo miraculously gave birth to twins at the Bifenxia Panda Center, the first cubs born after the earthquake.
One hundred days after their birth, as is the Chinese custom, Guo Guo’s twins were named: Ping Ping (a female) and An An (a male).
Guo Guo was one of approximately 40 Pandas rescued by caretakers after the devastating earthquake. She continues to thrive and has since given birth to another set of twins (in 2010) and a single cub earlier this year. The Wolong Center is still being rebuilt.