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Beijing zoo reopens after 59 days

By Xin Wen in Beijing and Huang Zhiling in Chengdu | China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-23 17:29

A girl interacts with monkeys at the Beijing Zoo on March 23, 2020. [Photo by Feng Yongbin/chinadaily.com.cn]

Daily routine

In Ya'an, Sichuan province, Su Lingxiao takes a bus to the Bifengxia base of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at 8 am.

Together with colleagues living in the base's dormitories in downtown Ya'an, the 26-year-old keeper reaches the mountainside facility in less than an hour to begin her daily routine of caring for a panda.

"The only unusual thing at the base since the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak has been the frequent use of disinfectant," Su said.

Although the base has been closed since late January due to the outbreak, disinfectant has been sprayed there twice a week on the interior roads.

Su said, "The door handle to the panda enclosure is sprayed with disinfectant, while a natural gas flame is used to briefly burn corners and cracks in the walls in the panda enclosures-areas difficult to reach with disinfectant."

After eating breakfast in the canteen, Su goes to the panda's enclosure to check on the animal's health and to see how much bamboo it has eaten during the night.

"If everything is all right, I start cleaning the enclosure and preparing the panda's food, which includes bamboo, bamboo shoots, a special bun, carrots and apples," she said.

"I feed the panda four times a day, the last time being just before I take the bus back to the dormitory at 5 pm," she said. "My routine has remained exactly the same as before the outbreak."

Su is one of some 20 keepers at the base. To celebrate Spring Festival, which fell on Jan 25, she stayed in her home county of Longchang, Sichuan, for 10 days. On Feb 4, her father drove her back to the dormitories in Ya'an, a journey of three hours.

"I was in quarantine for 14 days before I returned to work. Four other keepers also went home and had to be quarantined," Su said.

An animal lover since primary school, Su raised rabbits in her home village in Longchang. After majoring in animal medicine at Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University in Liaoning province, she has worked at the base since 2016.

The bus traveling between the dormitories and the center is largely empty because only keepers and some administrative staff members can be admitted due to the outbreak. Employees who normally cater to visitors have remained at home, Su said.

Different species of bamboo are planted at the center's four bases, but for the pandas, their favorite food is bought in other areas of Sichuan.

Zhang Guiquan, head of the Shenshuping base at the center and a senior veterinarian, said: "Although transportation is not as convenient as before the outbreak, there has been no problem buying bamboo. There is an ample supply for the pandas at all the center's bases.

"Generally speaking, pandas do not contract pneumonia. I don't think they will fall victim to the virus as I've seen no cases of people transmitting it to animals."

The China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda is home to 312 of the world's 600 pandas in captivity, the largest such population in the world.

Pandas are native to the southwestern province of Sichuan and to Shaanxi and Gansu provinces in the northwest of China.

According to the 2019 Annual Conference of the Chinese Committee of Giant Panda Breeding Techniques, held in November in Chengdu, Sichuan, there are more than 1,300 pandas living in the wild in the province, accounting for 75 percent of the national total.

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