A devastating earthquake in China's mountainous Sichuan province not only shattered human lives, homes and area infrastructure, it left dozens of endangered Giant Pandas at the region's panda centers shaken in more ways than one.
The April 20th, 2013 Lushan earthquake had a measured magnitude of 6.6 on the United States Geological Survey (USGS) scale and 7.0 on China Earthquake Data Center.
Some sources have dubbed the temblor the “Ya'an earthquake”, as its epicenter was close to the 1.5 million population city of Ya'an. To date, 186 people have lost their lives – a tragedy to be sure, though the 2008 Great Sichuan earthquake had an estimated mortality of from 70,000 to 90,000.
After the 2008 quake, some of the pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve near Chengdu were relocated to the Bifengxia panda base near Ya'an. Little did the 61 pandas or their human caregivers at Bifengxia know the 2013 earthquake would strike a mere 50 kilometers away in Longmen county.
Giant Pandas are native to Sichuan, an historically earthquake-prone region, though that's no reason to assume they casually shrug off quakes of any size. Just the opposite, it seems. Reviewed security camera footage from the Bifengxia panda base showed the creatures initially appeared stunned when the first shocks hit at 8:02am local time on a Saturday morning. According to Heng Yi, a spokesman with the base, some pandas then climbed trees while others frantically searched for a safe location.
Interestingly, not all of the pandas displayed similar reactions. “The daring ones remained calm, while the timid ones were in shock,” explained Heng. While none of the base's pandas were hurt (or worse) during and after the quake, those who climbed trees were reluctant to come down, indicating a sense of deep fear and possibly traumatic stress.