Panda Updates – Wednesday, January 31
Many of you may know that in 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the giant panda’s status from Endangered to Vulnerable. While this change in status is an amazing achievement for giant panda conservation, this designation does not mean the giant panda is safe from extinction. All of the conservation initiatives that have been implemented over the last 30-plus years remain in place to continue to protect giant pandas and their habitats. Giant pandas have been the focus of one of the most intensive and high-profile conservation efforts in history; however, giant panda habitat is still in danger from human interference such as tourism, farming, mining and infrastructure construction.
A recent study found that giant panda habitat was more fragmented (meaning, habitats are separated by human activities – homes, farms, etc.) and covered less area in 2013 than in 1988, which means there is still work to be done. The Chinese government has established over 50 giant panda reserves in China, but only 61 percent of the wild panda population lives in those reserves. Additionally, fragmented habitats create small “islands” of giant panda populations and can lead to inbreeding. Inbreeding ultimately weakens those individuals and the population as a whole. The Chinese are building wildlife corridors to connect these habitats to avoid inbreeding and provide more usable habitat for the pandas.
They are also continuing to invest in anti-poaching and habitat protection patrol staff, habitat protection initiatives and population monitoring to further giant panda conservation efforts. Zoo Atlanta has contributed over $10 million to the conservation of giant pandas in China, making this our largest conservation investment. The majority of these funds go toward projects in China, including research on genetic diversity in wild populations, reforestation and population census-taking and monitoring. You can help us support giant panda conservation by visiting Zoo Atlanta, becoming a Member or donating!