40 years ago, there was a global plea from China to save it’s endangered species Ailuropoda melanoleuca, better known as the black and white bear we have come to love, the Giant Panda. Now, 40 years later pandas are no longer endangered, but are they still in harms way?
Absolutely. Panda populations in the 1960s reached near-extinction levels and the Chinese government took extensive measures to protect large areas occupied by pandas. Logging and poaching were their main enemies before this preventive measure. Teddy Roosevelt’s two sons were the first Westerners to ever kill a panda in 1929. About 250 woody bamboo species have less than 2,000 square kilometres of forest remaining within their ranges. Currently, criminal punishment which can lead to the death penalty has reduced the activity of poaching. Instead of poaching, habitat fragmentation, climate change, and a loss of biodiversity have taken the role of limiting increase of their population. The life cycle of bamboo especially make it susceptible to rapid deforestation, with each individual flowering once every 20 to 100 years, eventually dying. The IUCN predicts 35% of bamboo forests in China will succumb to climate change in the next 80 years.
What can be done? Bamboo forests can slowly be introduced into areas similar to the mountain range they currently inhabit, such as the Qingling Mountains in Shaanxi province. A loophole in Chinese law allowed prohibited logging to occur under the guidance of China’s forestry department. This loophole should obviously be dealt with as soon as possible, as over half of the bamboo forest pandas and many other species inhabit are gone.
Endangered is just a word, and ‘threatened’ is just as bad as ‘endangered’. Numbers are up from 1,596 in the 1960s to 1,864 in 2014. An increase is an improvement, but there’s a long way to go before our concerns go away.