The unspeakable human tragedy resulting from the massive earthquake in China and the major reconstruction efforts ahead have been very much in the news lately. As you are aware, this is a critical region for WWF because of our work to protect giant pandas and panda habitat and I wanted to update you on the current state of our efforts. The situation in the field is still very fluid, with sometimes contradictory reports being issued. Thankfully, all WWF staff and volunteers in China are now reported safe.
We’ve learned that three pandas have been reported missing from the captive breeding center and the Chinese State Forest Administration is working to locate them, but the rest of the captive pandas did survive. Because of the remote location, heavy damage done to roads and communication lines, and unstable terrain, it will be some time before we have a clear picture of the conditions of wild panda habitat. WWF remains concerned as landslides have sheared the hillsides of their forests.
I’m pleased to note that WWF’s response to this disaster was immediate, working with first-responders in affected areas to help restore communication and provide emergency support. Within days, WWF provided 11 satellite phones to local partners to help with coordinating efforts in devastated areas. We have also given support to our program offices in Chengdu and Xi’an and are working with our partners to send tents, food and other supplies to the affected nature reserves and communities. WWF’s Humanitarian Partnerships Program, bringing experience from the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami in Indonesia, is working closely with the WWF-China Program Office to develop recovery and reconstruction plans. A team member of that program will be in Chengdu next week to provide on the ground technical assistance.
The scope of this catastrophe is only now becoming clear and we are just beginning to formulate a strategic, prioritized reconstruction and recovery plan. The next step is to conduct rapid assessments of all of our priority sites in order to develop the reconstruction plan for the panda landscapes. There is much work ahead.
Our hearts and minds are heavy with the news of tens of thousands of individuals who have died in this tragedy and the millions of people injured and without shelter. WWF will continue to work in the affected areas to help as China copes with this devastating disaster.