Promises and perils for the panda.

Abstract

AS A GLOBAL conservation icon and China’s national treasure, the endangered giant panda has received exceptional attention worldwide. Between 2003 and 2013, giant pandas in the wild increased from 1596 to 1864, according to the results from the latest survey released by the State Forestry Administration (1). About twothirds of the wild giant pandas and 53.8% of panda habitat are within nature reserves (1). Pandas in captivity are also thriving. However, there are long-term threats to panda survival and reproduction, including virus infection (“Captive pandas succumb to killer virus,” M. Hvistendahl, In Depth, 13 February, p. 700), habitat fragmentation, low genetic diversity, and human activities. As some old threats have diminished, new threats have emerged. Harvesting forests for fuelwood and timber has declined drastically (2), but livestock grazing has increased (3). Although illegal poaching has dwindled, climate change is becoming a potential threat. For example, climate change could bring a substantial reduction in the distributional ranges of the dominant bamboo species that comprise almost the entire diet of the panda population in Qinling Mountains of Shaanxi Province (the region with the highest panda density across the panda range) (4). To ensure long-term panda survival, it is important to expand from short-term to long-term strategies from the perspective of coupled human and natural systems (5). For example, the State Forestry Administration plans to prohibit encroachments on existing reserves for economic development, but only for the next 2 years. It is imperative to reduce human pressure in the long run by providing local residents with incentives to conserve pandas and panda habitat (6) and by providing educational opportunities that will enable young people living in the panda range to find jobs and settle in the cities (7). Creating nature reserves in areas where no pandas currently live (such as the northern side of the current panda range) might provide a safer haven for Edited by Jennifer Sills LETTERS

DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6235.642-a

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Cite this paper

@article{Liu2015PromisesAP, title={Promises and perils for the panda.}, author={Jianguo Liu}, journal={Science}, year={2015}, volume={348 6235}, pages={642} }