There already are more pandas
This is the emblematic animal for our planet's endangered fauna. But during the last 15 years, the situation has improved: the population of giant pandas has grown from 1,100 to 1,600. A 40 % increase, over a territory of 23,000 square km.
Panda requires not altered/slightly altered environments, in the middle mountains over 2,000 m (6,000 ft) of the Yangtze basin, in southeastern China, in the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu (the chains of Minshan, Qinling, Qionglai, Liangshan, Daxiangling, and Xiaoxiangling, harboring vast bamboo forests, home also for many pheasant species, giant salamanders (1.5 m or 5 ft long) and the rare golden takin antelope.
Poaching of panda is punished with over 20 years in jail, but poachers still place traps for different species in the panda's habitat. The fact that a panda skin costs up to 70,000 Euro is still a huge temptation.
The timber exploitation in the areas inhabited by the pandas is forbidden since 1998. In 20 years, deforestation had wiped out 50 % of the panda's habitat. Another positive program was Grain-to-Green, directed for recovering mountain slopes as agriculture terrains inside the forest.
Even if the general population is of 1,600, the nuclei of population are made of 50-100 individuals. Scientists consider an overall population of 2,000 as secure.
In the last 2 million years, pandas passed from meat to bamboo. They eat 12-40 kg (27 to 90 pounds) of bamboo daily, shoots, stems and leaves, and this takes them 14 hours. Based on the bite marks impressed in the digested bamboo stems from the panda feces, scientists can make the difference
from one individual to another. Thus, feces tell the scientists the number of pandas encountered in a region.
The last census found new populations in Liuba and Ningqiang (Shaanxi) and confirmed that the mountains of Qinling and Minshan should convert in areas of priority protection as they concentrate the highest densities of pandas. By now, there are 40 natural reserves of special protection for the species (compassing 45 % of the areal of the panda), but the isolation of some make the genetic exchange between individuals quite difficult, favoring the endogamy, which decreases the quality of the populations.
WWF asks for the creation of corridors connecting these nuclei, in which local human populations should be involved, essentially in activities compatibles with the panda conservation and jobs like panda watching, monitoring, and anti-poaching patrols, like in the case of the Wolong reserve (Sichuan).
Of the 166 captive pandas in the world, most of them are in Chinese zoos and centers (like Wolong), and about 20 in the US, Mexico, Japan, Germany and Austria. All are involved in conservation and captivity breeding programs. Still, for the moment, no individual bred in captivity has been released in the wild, even if the breeding programs were successful, as conservationists want to be sure that habitat loss, poaching, isolation and endogamy are gone.
For breeding pandas, Chinese have employed from video panda porn to Viagra and Chinese traditional remedies. Cloning has been considered for pandas, using as mother females of American black bear. In the center of Chengdu (Sichuan), a bank of epithelial cells taken from 26 individuals has been created, with the aim of conserving their genetic traits.
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