Reserves expanded to protect panda's habitats

Reserves expanded to protect panda's habitats

China will continue its efforts to protect giant pandas by expanding nature reserves and forbidding all kinds of construction and development in their habitats and surrounding areas.

The State Forestry Administration, China's wildlife watchdog, released results of the Fourth National Survey on Giant Pandas on Saturday. Despite the increase of both population and habitat area, the survey said economic development remains a threat to the preservation of the rare animal and its habitat.

The survey said habitat fragmentation is the major factor threatening the survival of giant pandas. Due to geographic isolation and human intervention, the wild population is fragmented into 33 isolated populations. Twenty-four of those have fewer than 100 pandas and are at high risk.

The major disturbances in the habitats of wild giant pandas include 319 hydropower plants, 1,339 kilometers of road and 268.7 kilometers of high-voltage transmission lines.

Chen Fengxue, deputy head of the administration, said the situation is still alarming and they will continue efforts to protect the habitats.

"Now about 42 per cent of panda habitat is not included in the network of nature reserves. We will establish new ones and expand old ones, trying to include all habitats and surrounding areas into the network," said Chen.

"At the same time, we will connect and bridge the fragmented, isolated wild panda populations," added Chen.

By the end of 2013, the population of giant pandas across the country had reached 1,864, an increase of 16.8 per cent. The number doesn't include cubs younger than 18 months. Nearly 75 per cent of wild pandas live in Sichuan province.

At the same time, the total area of their territory reached 25,800 square kilometres, an increase of 11.8 per cent.

Fan Zhiyong, WWF China's species programme director, said human intervention has broken the habitat into fragments.

"If the habitat is cut by a railway or other form of transportation network, then it could not be bridged easily," Fan said.

Fan suggested the protection of habitats needs an overall panda management network.

"The fragmented habitats in different provinces now belong to different government bodies to manage, which leaves room for construction and other human activities that can destroy the habitats," said Fan.

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