Giant panda Menglan celebrates his eighth birthday at the Beijing Zoo, July 4, 2023. (Photo by Wang Jing/chinadaily.com.cn)
Visitors are expected to see more giant pandas as the construction of the first phase of a new giant panda national conservation and research center is underway in Beijing.
The first phase of construction is projected to be completed by the end of this year, a senior official from the capital said during the city's ongoing "two sessions" annual meetings.
Zou Jinsong, Party secretary of Fangshan district, where the center's Beijing base is being built, said the government is working to welcome the giant pandas as early as possible.
According to a statement from the city government, the project is located in the Qinglonghu Forest Park in Beijing's southwestern Fangshan district, which is well-known for its natural environment.
"The goal of the project is to promote the revitalization of the wild population, enhance the protection of giant pandas and create a world-class giant panda research and education base, as well as a cultural exhibition platform," said the statement.
Huang Lingli, a graduate student at Peking University, said: "I saw on the map that the Qinglonghu Forest Park is much bigger than the Beijing Zoo. I wonder if this means more giant pandas would have bigger homes and more room to live and play?"
"My family and I are looking forward to the pandas settling in Fangshan as soon as possible, and we will be the first to visit them," she said.
Some others expressed concern about the Beijing weather and wondered if it would be too cold for the pandas, which mostly live in Southwest China's Sichuan province. However, experts said the pandas, with their thick coat, prefer cold weather to hot.
People connected with the project said there is still a long way to go before the public actually gets to see the giant pandas at the new center, as the project is still in the construction stage.
"The number of giant pandas to be housed at the center has not been decided as yet. It probably will take three to four years to get to that stage," said an official.
The reason Qinglonghu was chosen as the home of giant pandas in Beijing is due to the perfect environment of the location, as well as the presence of convenient transportation facilities, which are necessary for the movement of material and personnel for the center.
Preliminary inspections by experts found that Qinglonghu boasts superior ecological conditions, as it is home to mountains, forests, fields and lakes. It already has a forest park covering thousands of hectares, making it a suitable habitat for giant pandas in Beijing.
During a Beijing municipal government news conference in June last year, officials from Fangshan said that the panda center would cover an area of about 810 hectares, roughly equivalent to the size of 187 standard soccer fields.
In recent years, Beijing has been working on increasing its forest, wetland and park areas in order to make the city greener, said Feng Da, an official with the city's forestry and parks bureau.