Giant Pandas in a Changing Landscape
In a recent Science's Compass article Colby Loucks wrote that the giant panda should be a conservation success story as the world's most widely recognized conservation icon, with a protected area network of thirty-three nature reserves and a captive breeding program1. However, habitat loss continues to threaten its long-term survival. China's estimated 1100 wild giant pandas survive in only a fraction of their historic range. The panda is now restricted to twenty-four populations in montane forests on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in China's southern province of Sichuan.
In the Wolong Nature Reserve, the largest patch of protected habitat for pandas, its three subpopulations of thirty to forty-five pandas are likely to go extinct by 2100 if they remain isolated from one another. The other panda populations are smaller and live in even more fragmented habitat. Many of these populations face extinction. China has moved rapidly to protect pandas but they need even more habitat than is now set aside for them if they are to continue.
We spoke with Colby Loucks of the World Wildlife Fund about what needs to be done to improve the pandas' odds for survival in the wild.