Giant panda victim of bad weather

Updated: 2011-07-07 07:09

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

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CHENGDU - The recent heavy rains, floods and landslides in southern China that have led to the deaths of several people and caused massive damage may have also claimed the life of a wild giant panda that was found dead in Yingxiu township, Wenchuan county, Southwest China's Sichuan province, on Tuesday afternoon.

Giant panda victim of bad weather
People attempt to move the waterlogged body of a giant panda that was likely killed in rain-triggered floods and mudslides in Sichuan province. The animal's body was found in Zipingpu Reservoir in Yingxiu township, Wenchuan county, Sichuan, on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. [China Daily]

An examination by veterinarians from the Wolong Nature Reserve in the county did not find any obvious external wounds on the male panda that was likely around 10.

The autopsy found a considerable amount of water in the animal's lungs, said Zhang Hemin, chief of the reserve's administrative bureau.

He said the results of the autopsy coupled with the circumstances of the panda's discovery led him to rule out the possibility that humans had killed the animal.

He said it is probable that it drowned in the recent rainstorms and was washed out of its habitat into the Yingxiu section of the Minjiang River, a tributary of the Yangtze River.

Vets believe the panda had been dead for two or three days when it was found in Zipingpu Reservoir, which is fed by the Minjiang River.

The animal was found by a villager from Yingxiu who was checking his cornfields on Tuesday morning, according to the Sichuan provincial department of forestry.

Recent rainstorms and mudslides have wreaked havoc in many of Sichuan's nature reserves, damaging vegetation and infrastructure in both the Wolong and Anzihe reserves, the department said.

It promised to patrol sites affected by mudslides and offer timely help to wild animals, including pandas.

According to the State Forestry Administration, about 1,600 pandas live in the wild worldwide.

The rainstorms and mudslides have taken their toll on humans. In Sichuan, 29,000 households have been without power since Monday as a result of heavy rain that lashed Wangcang county, said a county government spokesman.

The weather has damaged all 20 schools in the county and 130 square meters of school buildings have completely collapsed while another 9,560 sq m are in danger of collapsing, he said.

Three residents from the county were reported missing after the rainstorms.