Have Panda Reserves Been Effective?
With fewer than 1,200 animals living in the wild, the giant panda is one of the world's most endangered species. Pandas once ranged from the mountains of northern China south to Vietnam. Today they live in about thirty isolated populations in the mountains of Sichuan province in central China.
The Chinese government with help from several non governmental organizations has taken steps to protect the remaining pandas and rebuild their numbers. They have established thirty-two panda reserves; they have cooperated on captive breeding programs both inside and outside China; they have made poaching a panda a capital crime; and they have made substantial efforts to improve panda habitat in the wild.
Jianguo Liu and his associates studied the effectiveness of efforts to protect the pandas in China and found that the amount of suitable habitat for pandas in the Wolong reserve has declined since the reserve was established1. Commercial-scale logging was banned in the reserve but local people are still allowed to collect wood for heating and cooking and building; even this reduced level of forest use continues to degrade panda habitat.
We spoke with Professor Liu about his work and about continuing efforts by the Chinese government to improve conditions for the giant panda.