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Bamboo dieback and panda wildlife
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Bamboo dieback and panda wildlife


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Bamboo dieback caused 134 pandas or 30% of the worlds population to die from starvation. To restore panda wildlife (if ever possible) a big lot more bamboo forest should be refrained from bamboo …

Bamboo dieback caused 134 pandas or 30% of the worlds population to die from starvation. To restore panda wildlife (if ever possible) a big lot more bamboo forest should be refrained from bamboo harvesting than what is currently the case.

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  • 1. The giant panda has become the unofficial symbol for wildlife protection and sustainability in general. In spiteof widespread publicity for the plight of the panda and over 20 years of international conservation work, thepanda is amongst the top 3most critically endangered of animals. In 2011, it is estimated that there aremaximum 1000 individuals in the wild. 140 panda’s live in zoo’s, mainly in China. A 6 year old male giant panda, eating bamboo, Wolong Nature Reserve, China.Giant pandas are biologically unique. They are closely related to bears but they do not hibernate and havethe digestive system of a carnivore. They have adapted to a vegetarian diet and depend almost exclusivelyon bamboo as a food source. Not designed to process plant matter, the pandas digestive system cannotbreak down the cellulose in bamboo. Therefore during 16 hours a day panda’s eat 40 kg of bamboo.About 99% of a pandas diet is bamboo.
  • 2. Originally, panda territory included South and East China and parts of Myanmar and Northern Vietnam.Fossil evidence shows that pandas lived almost as far north as Beijing. Studies have shown that between1973 and 1984, the habitat of panda has schrincked with 50%. Today, pandas are found in six isolated forestareas.Panda populations are currently isolated in narrow belts of bamboo no more than 1 to 2 km wide, calledpocket panda populations. The chinese government restricts bamboo harvesting within panda currenthabitat, protecting panda survival on the short term. However, until these bellts are substantiallyenlarged and stretched to additional bamboo area, panda survival remains at risk on the long term.Current pocket panda populations must get access to breed with others. Therefore much larger parts ofthe historic range of panda habitatshould be refrained from uncontrolled bamboo forestry. The giant panda’s current habitat has shrunk to a fraction of its original size., China. The giant pandas current habitat has shrunk to a fraction of its original size
  • 3. Why would a panda starve?Bamboo suffers from a curious cycle where once every 15-100 years, depending on the bamboo type, it willdie and begin growing again from new seed, a process called die-back. Normally there is only one type ofbamboo in the same forest and it takes 20 years before a new type of bamboo has grown enough to supportpanda population. Throughout history, bamboo die-back made panda population migrate to new territories.Now, due to deforestation, ‘bamboo-die-back’ causes pandas not to find other types of bamboo at theneigbouring mountain. The result is catastrophic and has caused panda to risk extinction. In 1992, innorthern Sichuan, after theumbrella bamboo suffered a die-back, at least 138 pandas starved to death. Shi Junyi studying dead bamboo. Wolong nature reserve, Sichuan Province, China.If there are no corridors open to the giant panda in their search for a new food, they will die of starvation.
  • 4. Tang Jia He Nature Reserve, Sichuan province, China.Poaching of pandas is not areal threat. Since 1944 few poachers risk the consequence: life imprisonment.Habitat loss through fragmentation is the most important threat to the panda. Large areas of bamboo foresthave been cleared for timber and fuel wood. Now, panda’s live in 29 habitats. These zones are like islandsof wilderness that contain the two essential ingredients for panda survival: bamboo and other pandas.The Chinese government, in partnership with WWF, is doing efforts to link the isolated panda habitats withcorridors of bamboo forest. Efforts to establish new bamboo forest are in permanent conflict with localgovernment supported by the international wood industry. For new panda wildlife to settle, at least 50 yearsof sustained bamboo forest management is requiered.
  • 5. Baima woman showing a honey comb. Sichuan Province, China.Minimize locals need to use panda habitat to provide for their livelihood, is the first step for the current criticalstatus to deteriorate further. A1998 logging ban implemented by the Chinese government helped to slow thehabitat destruction, but illegal logging still is overwhelming.Traditional bee-keeping is an environmentally friendly alternativelivelihood which local communitieshaveincreasing interest in developing. Constraints include quality of honey and a lack of stable market demands.A better marketing channel for honey would promote alternative livelihood development in local Baimacommunities, who live in a panda corridor area and currently depend on bamboo forestry.WWF Chinas Panda Program concentrates on implementing projects in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces (thehabitat of the giant panda). Bamboo harvesting restriction to the fraction of current panda habitat only, isone of the main threats for the panda species survival.