Are Panda Bears Endangered or Vulnerable?
A giant panda or panda bear is the official symbol of the 'World Wildlife Fund' (WWF). The giant panda was listed as an endangered species earlier. But some reports state that the number of giant pandas is increasing. The Chinese government’s efforts for conserving these species are found to be effective.
In 2016, IUCN reclassified the species from 'Endangered' to 'Vulnerable'. But, it doesn't mean they are safe. The IUCN says that in the next 80 years, climate change could destroy more than 35 percent of bamboo forests where pandas live on a bamboo-only diet. Illegal hunting, habitat loss are major threats causing panda species towards extinction.
Their Share in the Ecosystem
Pandas, too, are important contributors in bringing about a balance in the ecosystem. In the Yangtse Basin, the Pandas share their habitat with millions of humans. This place is known for its fisheries, water resources, transport, etc. Since the diet of pandas includes only trees, it initiates the people to continue yielding crop for a balanced ecosystem. The survival of this species will mean that humans occupying this place will continue to draw ecosystem benefits. Apart from that one should not ignore the fact that, like humans even pandas are the part of this earth and even they have the right to live.
Reasons for Endangerment
There are various reasons that have led to the panda bears being declared endangered. A few of the reasons are listed below.
Habitat Loss and Fragmentation
The habitat of panda bears is limited to the bamboo forests that are being increasingly depleted. Those that are remaining have been isolated from each other, and this disables their migration. They are also losing their habitat due to China's increasing population that is using up their resources very rapidly, ultimately leading to deforestation.
Bamboo Blooms Out
Panda bears are dependent on bamboo plants to fulfill their diet needs. When the plant reaches a certain stage of maturity, it produces seeds and flowers and then dies off. Pandas then need to migrate to another area, but are unable to do so, due to habitat loss. This leads to starvation that ultimately ends in their death.
Hunting and Poaching
Giant pandas are hunted for their skin, and soft and thick fur, especially by foreigners. In spite of their meat being tasteless pandas are still hunted for their meat. Also, there are people who are least concerned about balancing the ecosystem and hunt for pandas without any reason.
Low Reproductive Rates
Panda bears prefer solitude most of the time, and have a very short breeding season. Only one or two cubs are born at a time and the mother looks after just one of the cubs, until they are a year or two years old. A female panda does not mate while caring for the cubs. Another sad thing is that the infant mortality rate is quite high among them.
Rapid industrialization is also the reason why trees are cut. The areas are cleared to set up factories. This has resulted in the loss of food for pandas, because pandas take time to migrate and by the time they start migrating they are starved (for food), which leads to their death.
Saving Endangered Panda Bears
Due to the increased awareness about endangered species, several efforts are being made to save them from extinction. The Chinese authorities have declared the hunting and poaching of these bears as illegal and several wildlife reserves have been set up throughout China. These reserves promise protection and security to the panda bears. The WWF, along with the Chinese government, is making international wildlife conservation efforts, along with attempts to support their habitat. The WWF has worked hard to conserve pandas since 1980. They have increased the panda's habitat, taken action against hunting and poaching of the bear, created an ecosystem to link pandas who have been isolated, and kept a record of their habitat. In recent times, the Chinese government was assisted by the WWF in undertaking a program on the conservation of pandas. This joint effort has definitely brought some improvement in their habitat.
The effort of the WWF was definitely rewarding when the pandas natural inhabitant status gained a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. They might be considered endangered, but the WWF's efforts have definitely brought about improvement in their habitat.
A Helping Hand
- You can donate to various organizations that are involved in conserving the habitat of the pandas.
- Bring it to notice of the officials if you come across any deforestation activity.
- You can adopt a panda if you wish to.