The number of giant pandas in the wild increased by 268 over the last decade, bringing the worldwide population to 1,864 — a 16.8% rise compared to the last panda survey in 2003.
The new survey conducted by the government of China also revealed a widening range for the iconic creatures in the only three provinces where they are found on Earth. According to the report, the geographic range of pandas in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces has expanded by 11.8% since 2003.
“This significant conservation achievement is a testament to the Chinese government,” said Xiaohai Liu, executive director of programs for WWF-China. “A lot of good work is being done around wild giant panda conservation, and the government has done well to integrate these efforts and partner with conservation organizations including WWF.”
Thanks to policies like the Natural Forest Protection Project which banned logging in some natural forests, there are currently 67 panda nature reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last report, which explains much of the panda success story. In 2000, the government’s Grain for Green program also began replanting forests or grasslands on steep agricultural fields, which also decreased water and soil erosion.
WWF supports the government’s work by establishing panda nature reserves and a conservation network that integrates those reserves with forests farms and corridors of bamboo which allow pandas to find more food and meet new breeding mates.
Giant panda conservation efforts benefit many other rare species of animals and plants in the southwest China biodiversity hotspot. The giant panda’s habitat is a protective umbrella for endangered species such as the takin, golden monkey, red panda, and crested ibis. Forests within the giant panda’s habitat feature major water conservation areas that flow to the densely populated Yangtze River Basin.
The census, conducted by the State Forestry Administration of China, began in 2011 with financial and technical support from WWF.
(SOURCE: WWF – Photo by Bernard DE WETTER / WWF)