May 2002 - Article
reproduced with kind permission of The
LGVN Animals - Extinction
Panda not yet out of the woods...
old male Panda eating bamboo, Wolong Nature Reserve,
China © WWF-Canon/Susan A.MAINKA
- The disappearance and fragmentation of its rugged mountain forest
home are the "major extinction threats" to the endangered Giant
Panda, says the WWF, the conservation organization.
to coincide with WWF's 40th anniversary, the report, Giant Pandas
in the Wild, says that in Sichuan Province in China, where the greatest
number of Giant Pandas struggle for survival, suitable habitat occupied
by pandas shrank by 50 percent between 1974 and 1989. A survey in
1999 in one county in Sichuan revealed that since 1987 there has
been a 30 percent decrease in panda habitat.
is especially dangerous for pandas, as they must adjust to the life
cycles of bamboos, which flower and die periodically,'' said Dr
Lu Zhi, co-author of the report and former co-ordinator of WWF's
Panda Programme in China. "Small, isolated populations of Giant
Pandas, whose diet consists almost entirely of various bamboo species
found in high mountain areas, face a risk of inbreeding. This could
lead to reduced resistance to disease, less adaptability to environmental
change, and a decrease in reproductive rates."
species status report debunks the myth that 'sex is a problem' for
pandas living in China's temperate forests. The report points out
that field research has shown that Giant Pandas may live longer
in captivity, but that breeding success is greater in the wild.
In their natural
state, all adult females and males appear to be involved in breeding.
Records from the November 1999 Panda Studbook show that only 28
per cent of adult pandas in captivity are breeding. The authors
of the report indicate that protecting pandas in their natural habitat
is indisputably the highest priority for conservation of this internationally
known and loved, but highly endangered species.
of the Giant Panda's ancestors, which used to also cover parts of
Myanmar and northern Vietnam, is now restricted to half a dozen
mountain ranges in China. Recent population declines are due to
habitat loss,'' says Elizabeth Kemf, WWF's Species Conservation
Information Manager and co-author of the report. "Poaching and accidental
snaring of pandas also pose a great danger for such a small population."
There are around
1,000 Giant Pandas remaining in the wild and a new panda census
is underway. The results of the three-year National Survey of the
Giant Panda and its Habitat, started jointly by WWF in collaboration
with the Chinese government in 1999, should set the trend for future
WWF, the first
international conservation organization to begin fieldwork in China
in 1980, has supported a variety of activities over the past 21
years including participation in the first Giant Panda census and
preparation with the government of a Giant Panda management plan.
Following massive flooding in 1998 which devastated large areas
of Panda habitat in Sichuan, state officials declared an indefinite
ban on logging. The ban drove home the need to deal with the consequential
economic loss and potential social conflicts facing panda conservation.
"The only hope
for the future of the Giant Panda is to balance the needs of humans
and the needs of the panda. Giant Pandas need vast areas of temperate
mountain forests with lots of bamboo; people living in the vicinity
of the animals need secure sources of income and better livelihoods;
and China needs help from the world's people to protect its 'national
treasure' for all of humankind," added Kemf. WWF believes that urgent
action is required to identify and support creation of panda corridors
to link isolated panda populations. In addition, the Chinese government
needs to establish a permanent fund to combat chronic financial
shortages in panda reserves.
more information · Dr Yu Changqing, Species Programme Officer,
WWF China.Tel: 8610-6591-5732 to -37. Email: email@example.com
OR firstname.lastname@example.org · Li Ning, Panda Programme Communications
Officer, WWF China. Tel: 8610-6591-5732 to -37. Email: email@example.com
· Elizabeth Kemf, Species Conservation Information Manager, WWF
International. Tel: +41 22 364 9424; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ·
Kyla Evans, Head of Press Office, WWF International. Tel: +41 22
364 9550; E-mail: email@example.com
the authors Lu Zhi, Associate Professor of Peking University,
has been involved in field research on the Giant Panda and conservation
projects in China since 1985. Between 1995 and 2000, she worked
with WWF as its Panda Programme Co-ordinator, and is now a visiting
scholar at Harvard University.
Elizabeth Kemf is Species Conservation Information Manager for WWF
and a human geographer. She is co-author of WWF's Species Status
George B Schaller, Wildlife Conservation Society, is author of the
Foreword to Giant Pandas in the Wild. In December of 1980, supported
by WWF, he initiated field studies together with his Chinese colleagues
in Wolong Reserve in the Qionglai Mountains of Sichuan.
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