DUJIANGYAN, Sichuan - A new specialized center for giant panda rescue and disease prevention broke ground for construction on Wednesday in Dujiangyan city, Southwest China's Sichuan province.
Upon completion, the facility will be the world's only center for disease prevention and control for giant pandas, according to Zhang Hemin, chief of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
Apart from undertaking the mission of rescuing giant pandas living the wild and carrying out research on disease prevention and control for the endangered species, the facility will also provide a comfortable residence for the aged ones, said Zhang.
Located at Shiqiao village of Qingchengshan township, Dujiangyan, the facility will cover an area of about 51 hectares and will cost 210 million yuan ($32.3 million) to finish.
The financing of the project will be covered by Hong Kong, including 130 million yuan provided by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regional Government.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. It will be able to accommodate 40 pandas upon completion.
Chinese experts have seen remarkable achievements in breeding giant pandas over the past two decades and the number of China's giant pandas has reached 315.
Experts say that research on infectious diseases remains weak, though risks of such diseases have been increasing.
"The facility will not only separate pandas' breeding and disease treatment, but also prevent cross infections of pandas and human beings, because we sometimes have to take them to human hospitals for treatment," said Zhang, who is also head of the administration for Wolong Nature Reserve (WNR).
Wang Pengyan, executive deputy chief of WNR administration, said special facilities and researchers were needed to establish panda disease monitoring and prevention systems.
"As the Hong Kong invested facility is located near WNR and the provincial capital of Chengdu, it will be convenient to utilize rich medical sources in Chengdu and gather special experts for emergency cases," said Wang, who added that the project would also serve as a nursing home for aged pandas after it is finished.
Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered species. Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show that about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, while another 300 live in captivity in zoos around the world.