BY: JESSICA BEUKER
Giant panda bears are the rarest and most unique members of the bear family. They live mainly in bamboo forests, high in the mountains of Western China. They are also deeply endangered, with only 1,826 left in the wild.
The Yangtze Basin region—home to the panda’s primary habitat—is the economic heart of the country. Because of this, roads and railroads are fragmenting the forest, which isolates panda populations and prevents mating. Furthermore, forest reduction cuts off access to bamboo, which pandas desperately need. They must eat between 26 and 85 pounds of it everyday in order to survive. Hunting poses another threat to pandas as they are hunted for their fur, but more often they are killed by accident by hunters seeking out other animals in panda habitats.
Conservation efforts are consistently underway. The Chinese government for example, has established over 50 panda reserves. Unfortunately only 61 per cent of the country’s panda population is protected by these reserves, meaning that other programs and efforts are vital.
The Chengdu Research Base in China has stepped up by creating their own giant panda daycare, which seeks to breed, nurture and release pandas into the wild.
The base hopes to slowly repopulate the rapidly diminishing species. Chengdu stresses the importance of the umbrella effect—what happens to pandas directly affects other species as well. The conservation of the mountainous habitats of pandas means that other animals that dwell in these locations will also be protected.
Of course trying to save an entire species is not without its challenges.