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August 1, 2019. Life / Back from the Brink

Giant Panda Conservation

RUSSELL A. MITTERMEIER, ANTHONY B. RYLANDS, WES SECHREST, PENNY F. LANGHAMMER, JOHN C. MITTERMEIER, MICHAEL J. PARR, WILLIAM R. KONSTANT, RODERIC B. MAST

The Giant Panda is one of the iconic and best known of all the world’s endangered animals. It belongs to the order Carnivora, but is a vegetarian; bamboo leaves, stems, and shoots make up 99% of its diet. They must feed for almost 12 hours each day, consuming 12–38 kilograms of bamboo.

Giant Pandas were once found as far north as Beijing and as far south as Myanmar. Their “discovery” in 1869, however, resulted in heavy poaching, as well as a high demand by early-20th-century zoo collectors seeking specimens. Today, only 1,114 individuals survive in the wild, and they are confined to a few isolated mountain ranges on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.

In 1992, China’s National Conservation Project for the Giant Panda and its habitat laid out a master plan for panda conservation, establishing protected areas for its benefit. Pandas are now bred successfully in captivity, and plans are now underway to release captiveborn animals into the wild.

Based on these achievements, the Giant Panda’s Red List status was changed from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable”, but the species is still facing two major threats for its recovery. One is habitat fragmentation by insurmountable natural barriers and human infrastructure, and the other is climate change, which could wipe out the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

 

This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Nature Series Book “Back from the Brink” (2017)

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