Pandas True Mascots for Games, Biodiversity
author: GoChengdu 2022-02-22

The affection of Chinese people for giant pandas can never be underestimated. The cuddly, peaceful, bamboo-eating creatures have come to symbolize China. No wonder they have figured in almost every emblem and mascot for China in recent times, from the 1992 Asian Games, the Beijing 2008, and the Beijing 2022 to the upcoming Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games. 

 

(Photo by scdytv.com)

 

But the panda is not only popular for its cuteness. It is an ancient species that has survived more than 8 million years and is of great value to paleontologists, biologists, environmentalists, and ecologists.

 

Their current habitat overlaps the biodiversity region of the Hengduan Mountains in Southwest China. Hence, the panda conservation policy, by default, is also conducive to protecting thousands of other species - both flora and fauna. Human beings, too, benefit from panda conservation, as a study by Wei Fuwen, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows. For instance, the ecological value provided by the habitat of the giant panda is worth US$2.6 billion to US$6.9 billion per year, which is 10-27 times the investment in conservation.

 

(Photo by Xinhua News)

 

China's panda conservation policy can be traced to the 1950s and 1960s when the government banned the hunting of pandas and established the first four nature reserves for them.

 

Over the decades, the government, local communities, NGOs, and the public have made concerted efforts to protect the pandas, and these efforts have also achieved good results. The Fourth Giant Panda National Survey shows the population of wild pandas has increased from 1,596 to 1,864. Also, the panda habitat has increased by 11.8 percent, from 2.305 million hectares to 2.577 million hectares.

 

As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lowered the threat level for the panda in the red list from "endangered" to "vulnerable" in 2016. As inspiring as the change in the IUCN red list is, pandas still face major threats, including habitat fragmentation.

 

Anthropogenic effects, including expansion of cultivable land and infrastructure construction, have resulted in dramatic loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat across the world. The pandas are no exception.

 

The fourth national panda survey showed the wild pandas are divided into 33 isolated subpopulations, compared with 18 in the third survey, because of habitat fragmentation. Survival is more difficult for particular populations of giant pandas with small habitat areas and small numbers. Also, they face potential genetic extinction risks.

 

Therefore, China has always emphasized the importance of conservation to ensure that the pandas not only survive but also thrive. Accordingly, the panda is high on the list of the two official documents related to species protection — the "National Key Protected Wildlife Protection List" and the "Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species Appendix".

 

The newly established Giant Panda National Park also shows the government's determination to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitats. In 2016, the government announced a pilot project to build national parks in 10 places, and it is exploring new ways in managing and reforming Protected Areas.

 

After four years, five national parks stand out for meeting all the nine criteria, with the Giant Panda National Park being one of them. One of the park's major tasks is to gradually reduce fragmentation through habitat restoration and corridor construction. By covering 58.48 percent of panda habitat and removing the management barriers between the previous administrations of different panda nature reserves, the park is expected to protect the panda habitats more systematically.

 

The support of local communities is also crucial for the effective conservation of giant pandas and their habitats, so it is also crucial to ensure local people benefit from the act. The country's rural revitalization policy is of great significance, as it can help achieve this goal.

 

Furthermore, some NGOs are exploring new conservation methods with the help of local governments. For example, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Sichuan Forestry and Grassland Bureau (the Giant Panda National Park Sichuan Administration) jointly launched the panda-friendly community product certification system intending to transform the conservation value of community products into economic value, to ensure conservation and development can progress together.

 

China can share its biodiversity conservation experiences with other countries, so wildlife, their habitats, and their biodiversity can be better protected in other parts of the world too. With an increasing number of people taking interest in wildlife protection and biodiversity conservation, we hope pandas will continue to thrive in the wild and remain a shining example of conservation for the world.

 

 

Edited by Zhu Haiyue

Source: chinadaily

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