Giant pandas, species in way of extinction

​Giant pandas come from a large flourishing family of same species. They were once widely distributed over sixteen provinces and regions in Eastern and Southern China, as well as in certain regions in neighbouring countries such as Burma and Vietnam. Today, they only reside scatteredly in the Eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau and in the forests located within in the six sections of land on the Southern slope of the Qinling Mountains. Nowadays, there still exist around 1600 pandas, a rare species in way of extinction.

The following reasons that giant pandas are declining is because of:
1. Climate change escalation
Due to the Quaternery Glaciations, the global climate changed drastically, deteriorating living conditions. Other animals that existed at the same time as the giant pandas, such as saber-toothed tigers, stegodons and Chinese rhinoceros became extinct due to the massive climatic change. Although the giant pandas survived, the occurrence of continuous disasters since that time has steadily reduced their distribution areas and population numbers.
2. Human activities impact
Although the giant pandas survived the drastic climate change, subsequent human activities have exacerbated the threats to the survival of Giant Pandas:
- Hunting of giant pandas by Man
Hunting further reduced the Giant Panda's already limited population and increased dramatically upon discovery of Giant Pandas in Baoxing, leading to an influx of foreign hunters who hunted unscrupulously in China. Faced with the temptation of extravagant profits, less-reputable individuals took the risks despite national conservation laws, and posed a direct threat the survival of the giant pandas.
- Unrestricted expansion of human activities 
With the huge levels of population growth and urban development, forests are being cut down on a large scale, which, in turn, severely damages the habitat and reduces the living area of the giant panda. This, along with the construction with large-scale projects such as railways, highways, reservoirs and dams, has further contributed to decline the panda population, as well as the segregation of the panda communities.
The distribution area of giant pandas has been reduced from 50,000 square kilometres to 10,000 square kilometres. The 1600 giant pandas, which currently exist in China, are mainly distributed throughout the provinces of Sichuan, Shanxi and Gansu, and in the six mountain ranges of Min Shan, Qinling Qi, Liang Shan, Daxiang Ling, Xiaoxiang Ling and Lai Shan. These giant panda habitats are located on the borders of several provinces, cities and administrative regions, cut by roads, bridges, rivers and villages into 20 island-like areas of differing sizes. The pandas are forced to live separately in different places. It is very difficult for them to migrate freely, which leads to in-breeding and a loss of genetic diversity, which in turn causes a gradual deterioration of species quality and extinction.
In response to the serious fragmentation of the giant pandas’ habitats, experts suggested establishing ecological corridor zones as a remedial measure when bridges and roads were constructed in the habitat regions of the giant pandas. However, the giant panda is a species, which tends to flee when in danger. They need an ecological environment with a large area and thus creating such a conservation method of ecological corridors is not enough.
3. Low rates of reproduction
Adult giant pandas are in heat only once a year. There are usually around 1 to 2 cubs per birth. Newborn cubs only weigh about 100 g and their post-natal development is incomplete and they have a poor immune system, which leads to a low survival rate. Even under conditions of artificial rearing, the survival rate is only about 37.6%. In the wild, the survival rate of newborn panda cubs is even lower. Human activities, the segregation of panda populations, the fact that male and female pandas in heat rarely meet, thereby missing the opportunity to reproduce, along with disease and death from old age, means that the natural growth rate of the panda population is very slow.
Chinese conservation experts have stated that the living environment of the wild giant pandas has been split by rapid urban development, thereby precluding them from freely moving to other regions to mate and increasing the risk of inbreeding. If such a situation were to continue, the endangered giant panda, one of China's national treasures, may become extinct within two or three generations.
4. Single type of staple food
Giant pandas have a very narrow diet breadth, eating mainly bamboo. However, bamboos have a cyclical flowering pattern, and will wither after blossoming (The cycle takes approximately 60 years). The blossom of bamboo has been a natural process and giant pandas have long adapted to this in their course of survival. However, with the breaking up of their habitats and human interference nowadays, the blossom and withering of bamboos have aggravated the problem and created a shortage of food for the giant pandas. Many of them died of starvation, which threatens the existence of the giant panda population. The threat is even greater in places in which only one type of bamboo is edible.
Last Update : 03/10/2018
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