The Giant Panda is an endangered species, threatened by continued habitat loss and by a very low birthrate, both in the wild and in captivity.
The Giant Panda has been a target for poaching by locals since ancient times, and by foreigners since it was introduced to the West. Starting in the 1930s, foreigners were unable to poach Giant Pandas in China because of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, but pandas remained a source of soft furs for the locals. The population boom in China after 1949 created stress on the pandas’ habitat, and the subsequent famines led to the increased hunting of wildlife, including pandas. During the Cultural Revolution, all studies and conservation activities on the pandas were stopped. After the Chinese economic reform, demand for panda skins from Hong Kong and Japan led to illegal poaching for the black market, acts generally ignored by the local officials at the time.
Panda Conservation History
Even though it may firmly belong to the bear family, the panda’s appetite is decidedly herbivorous and its preferred diet is a staple of bamboo. In fact bamboo is poor food for a large, warm-blooded animal and even though it grows in abundance along the damp, chilly mountains of south-west China, the panda has, on occasion, starved due to bamboo’s propensity to die en masse every 25 years or so.
Qualifying for the highly endangered animals list has caused world attention to focus on the conservation of these gentle beasts; the Chinese government has set up numerous initiatives including setting up reserves in Sichuan Province and has instigated confined procreation programmes. Penalties for poaching these lovable giants have become harsher and peasants are highly rewarded for saving them.
The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries are the best way to get a glimpse of these gentle beasts; China is the best place to see them, since it is home to more than 30% of the world’s pandas. These sanctuaries – spanning over 924,500 hectares – make up the largest remaining habitat of the giant panda.
Although there are only 1600 pandas living in the wild, they naturally inhabit the mountain forests of southwest China.
Read More >>> Giant panda and the Bamboo.