China marks 140th anniversary of Giant Panda’s discovery

August 16th, 2009 - 12:25 am ICT by IANS  

Shaan Chengdu (China), Aug 15 (Xinhua) Panda lovers Saturday set out for a hike in China’s southwestern Sichuan province to retrace the steps of a French missionary who made the animal known to the West 140 years ago.
Pere Jean Pierre Armand David, a French Catholic missionary, introduced the Giant Panda to the Western world after taking photographs of the animal in 1869 in Sichuan’s Ya’an City.

Twenty hikers from across the country will climb the mountain trails covering 350-km up to the Ya’an Bifengxia Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre. They are expected to reach the centre Aug 25.

“Through this activity we hope to spread the knowledge of environmental protection and invite more people to join in the protection of endangered giant pandas and other wild animals,” said Yang Guang, the organiser of the event.

About 1,590 pandas live in the wild in China, mostly in the Sichuan province. These animals are also found in the jungles of northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu.

The panda protection centre was moved from Wolong Nature Reserve to Bifengxia, about 130 km northwest of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, after the devastating May 12 earthquake last year.

A new breeding center is also being built at Wolong to replace the quake-damaged habitat.

In addition to the hike, a week-long festival of more than 40 films featuring giant pandas and other wildlife will start in Ya’an Aug 19 to mark the 140th anniversary of the animal’s discovery, the organisers said.

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