Pandas especially Ailuropoda melanoleuca commonly known as the black pandas have always attracted people triggering the “aww” senses in them, thanks to their teddy-like exterior and adorable black and white shades. Nevertheless, their alluring appearance didn’t save them from falling prey to human activities. Pandas are among the most vulnerable species in the world with only about 1800 remaining. They used to be found in various parts of China, Vietnam and Burma. But, now they are only found in central parts of China where temperate forests are abundant.
The root cause of their disappearance is loss of habitat, due to improperly planned construction activities such as dams, factories, roadways and mining. The predominant source of food for pandas is bamboo and only bamboo though, occasional feeding on rodents and worms can be observed, that attributes only to 1% of their diet. Neither, their digestive system nor, their body allows them to adapt to other food sources or habitat. When bamboo forests are destroyed their primary source of food is removed leading them to starvation. Furthermore, our current pattern of construction makes it almost impossible for the pandas to find a new habitat with prevailing suitable conditions, in other words when a forest is destroyed it is impossible for the pandas to find another forest for livelihood in that locality.
Bamboo forests also have the cycle of drying up in the winter and regenerating in spring provided the forest remains a fertile mesh. During this process, pandas shift to neighbouring forests which have adequate food. Unfortunately, our activities have made it unlikely for the pandas to shift their habitat. Pandas are very selective with their mates. Even if two pandas, male and female, are kept in captive for a long period of time, it is uncertain that they will mate. They have a natural mechanism to search for an ideal mate. Habitat loss has made it difficult for them to find suitable mates which also acts as a significant reason for the decline in their population. Added to this, poaching has also been a dominating factor for panda loss as their fur and paws are worth hefty sums of money in the black market. Panda meat is also sold in certain regions.
On realizing the threat for pandas, the Chinese government along with WWF (World Wide Fund for nature formerly known as World Wildlife Fund) set in the path of preservation of their population. According to the world wildlife organisation, the Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, but only around 67% of the total wild panda population lives in reserves, with 54% of the total habitat area being protected. With the drastic efforts of the government, conservationists and locals residing near the panda habitats an increase of 17% in their population has been achieved as compared to the population that prevailed in 2004, according to IUCN. This increase in population has lowered the position of pandas from endangered to vulnerable in the Red list of species.
This is a clear visualisation that the ceaseless efforts in saving the pandas have actually turned out to be fruitful. But, these measures have to remain uninterrupted as pandas are still under the vulnerable category. Their threat still remains and might worsen due to climatic changes, deforestation and still pertaining poaching activities. The strict rules and process of reforestation has to sustain if, pandas have to survive.