BEIJING, Feb. 20 -- Half of the giant pandas reared in captivity in China have been sponsored by individuals and private enterprises in China and overseas, China News Service reported on Saturday.
A total of 184 pandas are raised in captivity throughout the country and a further 1,500 live in the wild, sources said.
The sponsors provide financial assistance for the care, guidance and support of the rare species.
Supplementing funds for scientific research was the most important goal of the sponsorship system, according to Tianfu Morning Paper, a local newspaper in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
Sichuan is one of the major areas in China where pandas live and are protected.
Thirty people from around the world have sponsored a total of 16 panda cubs that live in a special enclosure in Sichuan's Wolong Nature Reserve. The pandas left their mothers on Friday at the reserve's China Panda Conservation and Research Centre.
There are different levels in the sponsorship programme.
For 4,000 yuan (US$490) per year, you and nine other sponsors will have the right to name a panda for a year.
For 40,000 yuan (US$4,900) per year, you will have the sole right to name a panda for a year.
To name a panda for life costs 300,000 yuan (US$37,000) per year.
The living expenses of a single panda at the Wolong Nature Reserve currently amounts to 100,000 yuan (US$12,300) per year.
Including the investment in various nature reserves, the government spends more than 5 million yuan (US$620,000) per panda during the course of their life, according to the report of Tianfu Morning Paper.
It is reported that a female Japanese journalist was the first ever person to sponsor a panda.
She took the lead in donating money to the centre in the late 1980s to aid the breeding of pandas.
Although Jiajia, the panda sponsored by the Japanese woman, has been given to Hong Kong as a gift, the initial donor continues to provide financial assistance, sources said.
However, it aroused complaints when a panda was taken in January to a department store in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan, to meet Li Yuchun, winner of the latest Super Voice Girls singing contest who sponsors the animal.
The panda was reportedly scared by the flashing of journalists' cameras and the noise from fans.