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Quake-hit Chinese province sees surge in giant panda births

BEIJING, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - A total of 19 giant panda cubs have been born in captivity in southwest China's Sichuan Province since the May 12 earthquake, state news agency Xinhua cited researchers as saying.

Zhang Zhihe, a leading national panda expert, said nine pandas were born in the devastated region of Wolong and 10 in the provincial capital, Chengdu. The cubs, including eight sets of twins, were born from July onwards.

Giant panda Guo Guo gave birth to twins in mid-July, becoming the first giant panda to give birth since the disaster, the agency said.

On Saturday, an eight-year-old giant panda named Cheng Ji, meaning 'achievement', gave birth to twin cubs.

"Their births were not easy," Zhang said. "They are the joint efforts of the painstaking work of the mothers, scientific researchers and quake relief workers."

China has 239 giant pandas in captivity, and nearly 1,600 living in the wild, mostly in Sichuan and the neighboring provinces.

Large areas of the bamboo forests that provide shelter and food for pandas in southwest China's Sichuan province were buried under debris and landslides caused by the devastating earthquake in the region.

A total of 63 pandas were evacuated from the world-famous Wolong panda reserve after China's most powerful earthquake in 30 years hit Sichuan on May 12. Some 70,000 people died in the quake.

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