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 Sat, June 28, 08Wolong news and images by Suzanne Braden

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Mama Bear

Posts : 188
Join date : 2008-06-04
Location : Portland Oregon, USA

PostSubject: Sat, June 28, 08Wolong news and images by Suzanne Braden   Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:37 pm

Photos are here on the Pandas International website

Suzanne Braden, Director of Pandas International

I was asked by NBC to accompany their China correspondent, Mark Mullen, to Wolong. I began the long and difficult journey on Friday, arriving in Beijing on Saturday afternoon, flying Sunday morning from Beijing to Chengdu and immediately packing up for a lengthy trip in two 4-wheel drive vehicles. I had no idea what route we would take considering the only way I had ever gone was from Chengdu to Dujiangyan then up to Wolong. I knew this way was impassable since portions of bridges had collapsed, parts of the road were totally gone. The road went through the epicenter of the earthquake.

We left Chengdu and headed west towards Bifengxia, actually going away from the earthquake zone so we saw little or no damage. We passed Yaan City and Bifengxia and kept heading west. We turned north and began to climb into high mountains. The road was poor and muddy from rains and snow melt and dangerously slick. We reached the summit of one mountain about 11,000 feet and started down to a small village. After about 8 hours of being tossed around, we stopped for the night in a local guest house.

Next morning we were on the road by 7:00 on our way to Wolong. The drive was absolutely beautiful. The sky was bright blue with white clouds hanging on the Mountain tops, wild flowers in full bloom and water from spring run off pouring down every ravine .

We climbed to the summit of the Balang Mountain range. I could have been in my home state of Colorado except for the yak grazing on the mountainside. The area is in the Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, located on the southeastern rim of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the northwestern part of Sichuan Province. It is mainly inhabited by the Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups. The four sisters’ mountain range could be seen from the Balang highway.

The summit of the mountain was 4523 meters (14,839 feet) above sea level and marked with a stone hut and Tibetan prayer flags.

After we made it down the mountain, I began to recognize the surrounding landscape and knew we were on the road on the other side of Wolong. I also began to see the earthquake damage along the road.

After 14 hours of a bone jarring, teeth clenching journey, we at last arrived at the Wolong Center.

The Center was closed to the public. Military personnel were at the entrance. After obtaining permission to enter and disinfecting our hands and shoes and donning blue gowns, we entered the grounds. The first thing that struck me was the eerie, empty feeling.

We crossed the bridge to the entrance gate. Mud, rocks and trees were totally blocking the path on the other side of the gate, so a bridge had been constructed into the hospital building. Since it was lunch time, most of the staff was in the Panda Club office. I was warmly greeted by Dr. Wang and several of the caretakers, who insisted we join them for lunch. Even in this very difficult situation, the people were warm, generous and concerned for visitors rather than themselves. So we shared their lunch (rice and a few veggies) which was cooked on an open fire since there was still no power.

We then toured the center with Dr. Wang. There was an odd mix of no damage to total destruction, depending on where the slides came down. Mountain sides which were once lush green vegetation were now gray slabs of rock. Trees were uprooted or snapped like twigs.

Since Wolong sits in a V shaped valley, the Center was damaged by rock slides on both sides. Many of the panda houses were destroyed while others appeared to have no damage.

Dr. Li came to the Center and did an interview with the NBC crew.

The afternoon ended on a positive note as we watched the 1-year-old cubs get their second milk feeding of the day. Knowing Pandas International had shipped the milk and it was being used twice a day provided a good feeling.

While the cubs were enjoying their milk, the NBC crew and I got to go in the kindergarten area and play with the one year olds. Photos can show the wonder of this moment better than words.

Pandas International is accepting memorial donations in memory of Mao Mao for use in the rebuilding efforts. To make a tax-deductible contribution, please send checks payable to Pandas International at P.O. Box 620335 , Littleton , Colorado 80162 , or view daily updates and donate online at <>

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Sat, June 28, 08Wolong news and images by Suzanne Braden
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