The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake posed a very negative influence on the habitat of giant pandas in Wolong. The severe mountain collapse had cut the panda passage and habitats into many isolated islands, which directly affected the vertical migration of wild giant pandas.
The Wolong Base of The China Research Center For The Protection of Giant Pandas was less than 20 kilometers from the epicenter in a straight line, and was severely damaged in the earthquake.
14 sets out of 32 panda pets were completely destroyed, and 18 sets were severely damaged. Infrastructure such as transportation, communications, and hydropower were completely paralyzed. 63 captive pandas died and 1 was missing. The giant pandas which had survived were transferred in batches – 32 were transferred to Chengdu, Beijing, Fuzhou and other places for foster care, while the rest was transferred to the Bifengxia Base for emergency resettlement.
One of the dead pandas is called “Mao Mao”. Mao Mao is a female giant panda, and it is also the creative prototype of the Beijing Olympic mascot – Jing Jing. She was born in September 2003 in Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
The 5.12 Wenchuan earthquake with a 8.0 magnitude caused most of the giant panda beast sheds (mainly the outer circle) in Wolong Nature Reserve to be entirely damaged by the collapsed boulder. Mao Mao’s shed was also one of them severely damaged at that time, and two-thirds of the wall near the river had collapsed. Mao Mao had gone missing.
After a few days of hard search and rescue, on June 5th, in the trench of a wall, rescuers saw some black and white fur pressed under the collapsed wall through the slit, and they confirmed it to be a giant panda (its corpse, that is).
Although they couldn’t see the panda in whole and thus couldn’t confirm its identity for 100%, after analysis, they concluded that the dead panda was indeed Mao Mao. In the afternoon, as they couldn’t remove the corpse and there were many flies and worms, the corpse began to rot. Rescuers were worried about contagious diseases which could endanger the safety of the existing population, and they immediately sterilized and sealed the corpse on the site.
After nearly three days of digging, at 9:54 am on June 10, the collapsed wall of Mao Mao’s pen was finally cut off. At 10:22, they could finally open the wall where the corpse was covered. Then, they saw an extremely rotten panda corpse.
They could no longer tell which panda it was. Veterinary Wang Chengdong used an identification device to identify the chip code inserted in the scapula. After verification, he confirmed that it was the giant panda that had gone missing for 28 days.
After the earthquake, the former Chinese Wolong Giant Panda Museum was rebuilt into the “Wolong Nature and Earthquake Museum”. The China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center was rebuilt in Shenshuping, Wolong, near the Huangcao area; a new panda rescue and disease control center was built in Dujiangyan as well.
On October 30, 2012, the panda returning ceremony was held at the Wolong Shenshuping Base. After the earthquake, the first batch of 18 pandas returning to Wolong from the Bifengxia Base was enthusiastically welcomed, marking the reconstruction of Wolong after the disaster.