The number of wild giant pandas has increased nearly 17% over the last decade, according to a new survey conducted by the Chinese government.
Figures released today by the Chinese government show that the global population of wild giant pandas has reached 1,864 – up from 1,596 when their numbers were last surveyed in 2003.
A symbol of wildlife conservation, giant pandas are only found in China's Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
“The rise in the population of wild giant pandas is a victory for conservation and definitely one to celebrate,” said Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President of Wildlife Conservation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
“This increase in the population of wild giant pandas is a testament to the commitment made by the Chinese government for the last 30-plus years to wild panda conservation,” Hemley said. “WWF is grateful to have had the opportunity to partner with the Chinese government to contribute to panda conservation efforts.”
According to the Fourth National Giant Panda Survey, 1246 wild giant pandas live within nature reserves, accounting for 66.8% of the total wild population size and 53.8% of the total habitat area. There are currently 67 panda nature reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last survey.
The report found the total area inhabited by wild giant pandas in China now equals 6,370,000 acres, an expansion of 11.8% since 2003.
Despite a positive trend in the number of wild giant pandas, the species still faces challenges. 46% of panda habitat and 33.2% of the population live outside of protected nature reserves. Habitat fragmentation – the separation of wildlife populations by physical barriers – is increasingly noticeable with about 12% individuals facing higher risks to their survival.
Though there appears to be a decline in traditional threats to pandas such as poaching, large-scale infrastructure projects like mining, hydro-power, and supporting roads and railroads are becoming more severe and were referenced in the survey for the first time.
WWF supports the government of China’s work by establishing panda nature reserves and a conservation network that integrates those reserves with forests farms and corridors of forest that allow pandas to find food and meet mates. The organization’s work ensures the legal protection of a large percentage of panda habitat and an improvement in how conservation efforts are carried out. WWF was also involved with the survey produced.
Xiaohai Liu, Executive Program Director, WWF-China said, “The survey result demonstrates the effectiveness of nature reserves in boosting wild giant panda numbers.”