The giant panda is listed as Endangered in the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Animals, the second highest category of threat a species can be before it becomes extinct. The giant panda is protected at national, provincial, and local levels by China's Wildlife Protection Law.
Under this law, offenders convicted of poaching giant pandas or smuggling giant panda skins face death or life imprisonment. In 1984, the giant panda was transferred from Appendix III to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which makes trade in the species or its products subject to strict regulation by the ratifying parties. Trade primarily for commercial purposes is banned.
Why Pandas Are Endangered
The giant panda needs to feed off abundant bamboo understories to survive. Like many other large mammals, giant pandas have low reproductive rates and populations are slow to recover when animals are killed. Studies in the Qinling Mountains of southwest China have shown that pandas are most threatened by the negative impact of extensive human activities on their range.
There is great need for a thorough re-assessment of the status of pandas’ shrinking habitat, as well as in-depth study of the socio-economic factors behind these growing negative impacts.
Historically, habitat loss and fragmentation have been major threats to the survival of wild pandas. In the 1950s, a panda’s habitat was estimated to cover around 5.1 million hectares. Logging over the next few decades peaked in the early 1990s, shrinking the habitat to 1.3 million hectares.
It wasn’t until a 1998 government ban on logging in panda ranges and a new State Natural Forest Protection Project that habitat loss began to slow. Today, about 5.7 million acres (2.3 million hectares) of panda habitat are known to exist. The increase is attributed to real forest re-growth, the discovery of new areas where pandas live, as well as scientific improvements in measuring habitat size.
Protected areas that exist now are not providing adequate protection of healthy panda populations. Nature reserves contain less than half (1 million hectares) of known panda habitat. That means more than half the world’s wild pandas aren’t protected.
More than 300,000 people live within panda ranges, putting unprecedented pressure on the wild panda population. Climate change also threatens remaining panda habitat, bringing new weather patterns that could significantly affect future availability of shelter and food. Fragmented forest cover limits the panda’s range and could have a devastating impact on the overall population.
The information in these pages has been taken from:
Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC
CI-Shanshui Center for Nature and Society, Beijing, China
The Giant Panda in the Wild Species Report authored by Dr. Lu Zhi