Around the world, different endangered species are facing looming threats that may lead to their extinction. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports that there are fewer than 2,500 mature pandas in the wild, which leaves the future of giant pandas uncertain. Several factors have led to pandas becoming an endangered species.
Giant pandas are furry black and white animals that are the rarest members of the bear family. Their natural habitat is in the forests of bamboo located high in the mountains of Southwest China in the Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan Provinces. The giant panda is a revered animal in China, and Chinese law seeks to protect it. Since its creation in 1961, the WWF has featured a giant panda as its official logo. In the 1980s and 1990s, panda poaching was prevalent in China, but strict laws have led to its decline. The now most looming threats that giant pandas face are habitat destruction and fragmentation.
One of the reasons why giant pandas are endangered is due to the loss of their natural habitat. China's rapid economic development and high population have led to greater demands for natural resources. Timber logging has destroyed much of the giant panda's bamboo habitat. Bamboo is the panda's main source of food, but human agricultural activities are diminishing the available bamboo food source. Giant pandas typically move to lower altitudes in the spring and winter, but Chinese agriculture is now claiming much of the lower elevations of the giant panda's environment.
Typically, when one species of bamboo dies, pandas will move to another area to find another type of bamboo to eat. Humans are fragmenting the panda's habitat by building roads and railroads through the land. If giant pandas cannot move from one location to another in search of bamboo, they face the risks of isolation and starvation. When groups of pandas are isolated from one another due to fragmented land, they may have no other option but to inbreed, which can lead to reproduction problems and an increased susceptibility to disease.
The Chinese government has taken numerous strides to protect the giant panda. The government banned logging in 1998 and has since created wildlife reserves to restore the panda's natural habitat. The Chinese government is working together with the WWF to create bamboo corridors that connect pandas living in isolated forests. The WWF patrols against illegal logging and panda poaching, and China's Wildlife Protection Law has laws against poaching. Conservation efforts of the giant panda have spread worldwide; the WWF works with international researchers to monitor and research giant pandas.
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