PANDAS BASES AND RESERVES IN SICHUAN
Jennifer S. Holland wrote in National Geographic Traveller: Two-thirds of the world’s wild pandas live in 67 nature reserves in the bamboo-rich, old-growth forests above China’s Sichuan Basin. The rest roam in unprotected areas nearby. China has been creating reserves to restore and protect disappearing panda habitat, increasing the bears’ geographic range by nearly 12 percent since 2003, and is now introducing captive-bred pandas into the wild. [Source: Jennifer S. Holland, National Geographic Traveller, August, 2016]
There are three panda bases in Sichuan for the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda: Bifengxia, Dujiangyan, and Wolong.“ Giant pandas are masters of adaptation. “We humans are used to changing the environment to suit our needs,” Zhang Hemin, director of the three panda bases, said “The difference is that pandas changed themselves to suit the environment.”
The Dujiangyan Giant Panda Base (55 kilometers, 34 miles from Chengdu) is located in Shiqiao (Stone Bridge) Village of Qingchengshan Town in Dujiangyan. Covering an area of about 51 hectares (126 acres), it embraces a vast bamboo forest in scenic location The base includes a panda hospital, a medical lab, 10 sets of monitoring enclosures, 30 sets of enclosures, a panda kitchen, an educational center and staff housing. The base is composed of six areas: 1) panda rescue and quarantine area; 2) panda disease control, prevention and research area; 3) panda rehabilitation, training and feeding area; 4) public reception and education area; 5) natural vegetation area; and 6) office and logistics services area. [Source: Pandas International]
Bifengxia Giant Panda Base (BFX, 140 kilometers from Chengdu) is a giant panda research and breeding facility in Bifengxia Town, Ya'an, Sichuan, It opened in 2004, and is the home of several giant pandas and breeding laboratory. On the panda breeding activity there: Jennifer S. Holland wrote in National Geographic Traveller: “Visitors here can see adult bears in outdoor yards—hunched over broad bellies, chomping messily on long bamboo stalks from enormous piles delivered several times a day. Up a hill from these exhibits lies the staff-only building where bears in the breeding program reside. Enclosures are concrete with iron-barred doors; each opens to an outdoor pen. Typically there is a female panda in each, eating or sleeping, sometimes with a cub in her arms. “Even after many years, whenever a panda is pregnant or gives birth here, everyone is so joyful and excited,” Zhang Xin, a rather bearlike veteran keeper, told me. “We look every day at the adults, the babies, how much they are eating, what their poo looks like, if their spirit is good. We just want them to be healthy.” [Source: Jennifer S. Holland, National Geographic Traveller, August, 2016]
“At Bifengxia, bears mate under keepers’ watch—a far cry from the privacy they have in the wild. The panda base’s operators are finding ways to allow for natural reproductive behaviors such as scent marking, mate choice, and male competition. Still, the Chinese are getting big results.In 2015, 38 cubs were born in China. (BFX produced 18 of them—its highest number yet.) In the panda kindergarten building at the center of BFX is the immaculate incubator room, where the cubs, when not with mama or a surrogate mother bear, get 24/7 human care. Separating mothers and babies is controversial, but it boosts cub survival when staff can place a weaker or rejected infant with an attentive surrogate.
See Separate Articles GIANT PANDAS: THEIR HISTORY, HABITAT AND CHARACTERISTICS factsanddetails.com ; PANDA BEHAVIOR AND EATING HABITS factsanddetails.com ; PANDA REPRODUCTION AND CUB RAISING factsanddetails.com ; ENDANGERED PANDAS: LOSS OF HABITAT AND EFFORTS TO SAVE THEM factsanddetails.com ; PANDA CAPTIVE BREEDING AND REWILDING factsanddetails.com ; PANDAS AND HUMANS: PANDEMONIUM, RENT-A-PANDAS AND DIPLOMACY factsanddetails.com
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (10 kilometers from central Chengdu on Panda Road) is one of China's premier panda research center and the best place to observe the beloved animals. The animals are kept in animal-friendly enclosures that replicate their natural habitats. The best times to view the pandas is between 8:30am and 10:00am during feeding time when the pandas are most active.. Some times the best views are obscured by vegetation. Around the center are walking paths and gardens.
The Research Center pioneered many techniques that have improved the survival chances of pandas and boasts the world's most successful panda breeding program after the one in Wolong (See Below). Many of the giant pandas here were produced through artificial insemination. The Giant Panda Museum offers information on the history of pandas, their physiology, habits and behavior.
The general research task of the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda is to increase the population of the giant panda by focusing on reproduction, fundamental and application researches. The comprehensive research includes the reproduction, breeding, behavior, physiology, biochemistry, endocrine, genetics, species observation and disease treatment of the giant panda and other rare species. [Source: Science Museum of China kepu.net.cn]
In the 1980s, scientific work conducted in the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda focused mainly on the ecology, behavior, species group condition, and main diet bamboos of the giant panda. Through this research work, the center had access to the group number and distribution of giant pandas in the reserve; meanwhile, a lot of information has been acquired about the reproduction, physiology, and diet of the giant panda. Economic conditions of the local residents were also investigated and practical measures have been taken to increase their sense of nature conservation. As a result of the efforts taken, the number of giant pandas in the wild of the Wolong Natural reserve presents a tendency to increase.
The research work mainly consists of three parts: wild plants and animals, economic plants and animals, and domestic animals in the reserve. It involves many scientific branches, such as: ecology, group distribution and group behavior, breeding and reproduction, pathology, endocrine, genetics, clinical medicine, parasitosis, microelement, sound spectrum, pedigree and artificial breeding.
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has grown from 10 hectares and six pandas in the 1990s to 70 hectares and over 100 pandas in the 2000s. It welcomes about half a million tourists a year. In 2005, the 37-hectare facility contained 48 pandas in a series of compounds and several dozen red pandas and other rare species such as black-necked cranes. Tour guides at the base say that more than half of the visitors are non-Chinese, many of whom are willing to fork out 1,000 yuan (US$150) to be photographed holding a giant panda cub on a wooden bench for one minute.
Wolong Nature Reserve
Wolong Nature Reserve (120 kilometers northwest of Chengdu, two hour by bus from Chengdu) is the panda reserve most visited by Western scientists and tourists. The terrain is rugged and the bamboo forest are so dense that likelihood of seeing a panda in the wild is rare. Tourists are often restricted from going much of anywhere anyway. Most visitors stay close to the big research center and veterinary hospital. Wolong means “sleeping dragon."
Set up in 1963, Wolong Reserve covers 500,000 acres (800 square miles) and is home to about 150 pandas as well 20 kinds of reptile, 280 species of bird and 4,000 species of plant . Among the 96 mammal species are endangered golden monkeys, which travel in groups up to 300 animals; takin, a strange looking animal related to the musk ox; and tufted deer, which have odd-looking, protruding canine teeth. Around 3,000 people, most of then members of the Tibetan-like Qiang minority, farm some of the slopes in the reserve.
The Wolong Natural Reserve It is situated in the transient zone of high mountains and deep valleys between the Sichuan Basin and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Near to the national highway number 213, Wolong Natural Reserve contains a 104-kilometer long cement road has been built and optical fiber telephone service and mobile communication have been established.
Wolong is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hikes of varying length are available in the park along clear streams and mountains ridges and through pine forests. Occasionally people catch glimpses of panda droppings. Web Site: Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site site UNESCO Accommodation : Wolong village is home to 5,000 people and has hotels and restaurants.
Getting There: Wolong is accessible by car or bus by Chengdu. Wolong Panda Center is 120 kilometers outside of Chengdu by road. It takes about three hours to get there by public bus. Buses operate to Wolong Town from Chadianzi Bus Station in Chengdu's Jinniu District. It is more convenient to get there with a car and driver that can generally be arranged at your hotel or guest house of through a travel agency. In the old days it took nine hours to reach Wolong by bus from Chengdu on a rough, twisting mountain road that was often undergoing repairs. People that hired a car and driver could reach it four or five hours. Later a paved road was built that reduced the travel time to only two hours. That road unfortunately was destroyed by the 2008 earthquake but has since been repaired and rerouted. The alternative road requires crossing two mountain passes.
Pandas and Wolong Nature Reserve:
The Wolong Natural Reserve has been named the “Home of China Giant Panda”. It is now the largest national natural reserve for the protection of the giant panda and other rare species. There are over 150 giant panda living in the reserve and over 30 of them residing at the center.
Pandas are kept at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan for research as well as breeding purposes. Many records regarding pandas and achievements in the artificial reproduction and breeding of the giant panda has taken place here. There are also large-scale breeding bases for red pandas, golden monkeys and other rare animals. The best-known observing station in the wild is "May 1 Station".
Most of the estimated 1,800 or so giant pandas in the wild live in panda reserves established by the Chinese. Most of these reserves are located in Sichuan province, mostly in remote areas in mountains between Chengdu and the Tibetan plateau. Five reserves are situated in the Min Mountains north of Chengdu; three more, including Wolong Natural Reserve, are west of Chengdu; and two are south of Chengdu.
Giant Panda Research at Wolong
In June 1980, the Chinese government, with some assistance from the World Wide Fund for Nature, set up the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in the Wolong National Natural Reserve. It is located in Hetaoping at an altitude of 1920 meters. It is a quiet, beautiful place with an average temperature of 12 degrees C through out the year. It has abundant rainfall, moist atmosphere, and comfortable temperature either in winter or in summer, and therefore, an ideal place for the reproduction of the giant panda. [Source: Science Museum of China kepu.net.cn]
In 1978, the first giant panda observation station in the wild — the May 1 Observation Station — was built to conduct ecological research on vertebrates in the reserve. In 1978, the Wolong Natural Reserve signed a long-term cooperation agreement with World Wildlife Find (WWF) , and the May 1 Observation Station became an ecological observation and research base for the giant panda and its edible bamboos. Led by Dr. George Schaller, the first group of experts from WWF came to the May 1 Station. Together with Chinese experts led by Prof. Hu Jinchu, they did deep and comprehensive research on wild giant pandas, takins, golden monkeys and other associate animals. In the four-year research, they laid down the basis for research on the giant panda.
The task of the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda is to increase the population of the giant panda by focusing on reproduction, fundamental and application research and through comprehensive researches on the reproduction, breeding, and disease treatment of the giant panda. Methods include the direction of diet, nutrition, breeding, artificial fertilization, sperm analysis, caring of pregnant giant pandas, raising of young panda cubs, treating of disease and giant panda breeding. The final goal of the center is to reintroduce artificially-bred giant pandas to nature and thereby save this endangered species.
In the Wolong Panda Protection and Research Center, you can have a look at red pandas as well as giant pandas. One person wrote: When you get into the Red Panda Museum, keepers in the museums will give some fruits or foods that the red panda enjoys. Just put the food on your palm, they will run over to you and stay with you even when they have finished their food. Like naughty boys, they will not let you go until the keepers lure them away with food. But, don't worry too much — they will not hurt you."
Natural Environment of Wolong Natural Reserve
Wolong Natural Reserve covers a part of the southeast Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture and the southeast side of the Qionglai Mountains. It has natural dividing lines like hillcrests and rivers as its boundaries. Its geographic coordinate is 102 52'~103 24'east degrees longitude and 30 45'~31 25' temperature northern latitude. Covering about 2,000 square kilometers, it measures 53 kilometer from the east to the west and 62 kilometer from the south to the north, The highest mountain in the reserve is the Siguniang Mountain which is 6,250 meters (20,505 feet) high. The easter part of the reserve, near Mujiangping Mountain, is only 1,250 meters (4,100 feet high) — 5000 meters lower than the Siguniang (Four Girls) Mountain. [Source: Science Museum of China kepu.net.cn]
Wolong sits in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Climatic Belt and undergoes relatively small temperature changes through the year. However, different seasons have very different humidity levels and the rainfall amounts and the climate varies according to different altitudes. Long-term observations of the meteorological station at Shawan of Wolong has recorded 29.8 temperature C as the highest temperature and 8.9 degrees C as the lowest temperature. The average yearly rainfall amount is 888 millimeter.The yearly relative humidity is 80 percent. The rainfall in the reserve is concentrated in the months between May and August. The yearly sunshine duration is 949.2 hours.
The horizontal distribution of vegetation in the reserve has been classified as subtropical broadleaved forest. In terms of vertical distribution, the vegetation displays an obvious altitudinal band spectrum according to change of altitude and hydrothermal condition. With unique geographical conditions in the reserve, combined with complicated relief types, diversified landscapes and comfortable climate, make Wolong Natural Reserve an ideal place to visit even without the pandas. The reserve features precipitous mountains, beautiful and clean rivers and springs, forests and caves. In addition to its biological diversity, the cultures of the Tibetan and the Qiang people can be observed and experienced.
Wildlife in Wolong Natural Reserve
Animals found in Wolong Natural Reserve include the giant panda, red panda, the golden money, white-lipped deer , white-rumped deer , snow leopard, clouded leopard, leopard, tibetan macaque, rhesus macaque, sambar, snow leopard, clouded leopard, leopard, Tibetan macaque, rhesus macaque, sambar, goral, serow, burhel, Alpine musk deer, large Indian civet, small Indian civet, lynx, Pallas's cat, Asiatic black bear, pika-eating bear, Himalayan marten and European otter.
Trees and plants found in the reserve include Fan-shaped Fern (Neocheiropteris palmatopedata), Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Sichuanchinese larch (Sichuan hongshan): Larix mastersiana, Picea brachytyla var. complanata, Veitch's Spruce: Picea neoveitchii, magnifica Schneid, red wood: Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu et Cheng, Dipteronia dyerana, Pterostyrax psilophylla, chestnut tree: Juglans regia., astragalus, longevity grass: Trillium tschonoskii, officinal magnolia: Magnolia officinalis, Chinese goldthread: Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora, Big-leafed willow: Salix magnifica Schneid, single-leafed grass: Kingdonia uniflora, Chinese dove tree: Davidia involucrata BaillonThe Chinese dove tree, cork tree: Phellodendron amurense, Lingchunmu: Euptelea Pleiospermum Hook,f.et Thoms, Wild rose: Rosa rugosa Thunb, Tetracentron: Tetracentron sinense, tall gastrodia: Gastrodia elata, Henry emmenopherys: Emmenopterys henryi, round-leafed magnolia: Magnolia sinensis, Dysosmatis, Bretschneidera sinensis, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, eucommia: Cortex Eucommiae, Q.tunidinoda Hsueh et Yi
Within Wolong Natural Reserve, there are more than 150 giant pandas. Widely distributed there are also other 56 species of rare endangered animals like the golden monkey and takins. the gnus, which are on the list of key national protected animals. Twelve of these species are first class protected animals while the other 44 are second class protected animals. Data from the reserve indicates that it contains 450 vertebrates, including 103 species of mammals, 283 of birds, 21 of amphibians, 25 of reptiles, and 18 of fishes. There are also about 1700 species of insects. Statistics made from collected plant specimens indicates that there are nearly 4000 known plants in the reserve, of which 1989 are higher plants. Among the spermatophytes in Wolong, there are 20 of gymnosperms and 1604 angiosperms. 24 plants are in the list of national protected rare endangered plants, including Chinese dove tree in the first class and 9 other plants in the second class.
Hetaoping Research Center in Wolong
Hetaoping Research Center (an hour from the entrance to Wolong Nature Reserve) has bred dozens of pandas and has introduced some to the wild. As of late 2007, 128 of the 239 giant pandas in captivity in the world were at Hetaoping, the majority of which were bred in captivity there. A few years ago they were kept in barred cages, But these days they can roam around in large open pens and look genuinely happy. Facilities at the research center include a panda hospital and food preparation area. Most pandas are fed “wo tu” — a coarse, nutritious cake made with rice and corn that was invented at the center.
Nestled between forested mountains and a rushing river in a a valley of the Qionglai Shan mountains. Hetaoping research center is a maze of bushes, trees, concrete sidewalks, stone and concrete buildings and research areas. There are signs and explanations in English as well as Chinese what each place is. In one building females that are pregnant or suspected of being pregnant are kept in special pens, where they can be closely monitored. In the late 1970s the Chinese set up a field station here. Since 1980, they has been working with the WWF, the first Western organization to cooperate on pandas with the Chinese government. [Source: Jennifer S. Holland, National Geographic Traveller, August, 2016]
Tourists often gather around at play area to take photographs if the pandas. The young pandas are the most popular. They and the adults are most active in the mornings. The outdoor nursery for the panda cubs resembles a playground. It has a set of monkey bar, a seesaw, a swing and a yellow plastic rocking horse that stands 30 feet tall.
Visitors can pay US$133 to enter a pasture with pandas and play with them for a few minutes. To protect the pandas visitor are sprayed with antiseptic and wear sterile gloves, booties and gowns. But there is nothing to protect the visitors who are often knocked by the surprisingly strong and rambunctious pandas. For US$53 visitors can have their picture taken with a panda, who usually munches a piece of bamboo. On her experience there, Jennifer S. Holland wrote in National Geographic Traveller“I crouch down low in the grass to get a closer look at the animal lurching toward me. She’s about four months old, the size of a soccer ball, slightly bug-eyed, and no doubt soft and fragrant as a puppy. The urge to scoop her up and squeeze her is overwhelming. [Source: Jennifer S. Holland, National Geographic Traveller, August, 2016]
The research center now has a basic but comfortable hotel and a special walking trail set up to offer good views of the pandas in their pens, which very closely resemble the panda's natural habitat. There is a small museum and English-speaking can be hired for a few dollars. Wolong is supported by money from the Chinese forestry department and fees its earns from visitors.
See the National Geographic Traveller article “Cute, Cuddly, and No Longer Endangered: Inside China’s Panda Breeding Centres” /natgeotraveller
Chushuigou and 51 Station: A Good Place to See Giant Pandas in the Wild?
Going up the river valley from Shawan about 4 kilometers, you will see a bridge that crosses the Pitiao River. Opposite to the bridge, a path will lead you to the northwest of the hill. Crop fields disappear; what takes their place are shrub forests and sapling forest, in which sheep and goats moving here and there. Still going higher, shrub forests become thicker and thicker, and Huju bamboos come into your sight. Climbing up a spur, you will find the path become even; then you are in the territory of Chushuigou. Winding along the hills in the forest, the path leads to the "51 Station," which was built in May, 1978 at an altitude of 2520 meters. [Source: Science Museum of China kepu.net.cn]
Chushuigou includes almost all the drainage basin inside a hillcrest, whose highest place is Qitouyan with an altitude of 3624 meters. The total area is 35 square kilometers, including mixed forests of coniferous and broadleaved deciduous trees below an altitude of 2600 meters, and coniferous forests still below the mixed forests. In the area grows large areas of bamboos that are edible to giant pandas that often appear there. This is perhaps why Chushuigou frequently appears in literature and materials about the giant panda.
A lot of field work by giant panda scientists has been done here. One passage from the book “Giant Panda in Wolong” reads: November is a month of transition: broadleaved trees almost all became bald, and the ground was covered with brown and yellow leaves. After a whole night's frosting, the leaves made crisp, clear sounds when my feet touched upon them — I felt quite refreshed. The lasting mist and fog of summer disappeared totally; the whether was fine and then it snowed. The snow soon melted; but as time went on, the east slope and northeast slope had thick snow. In December, winter came....April is full of life and energy. Azaleas — even some not so shining flowers — began to blossom. In late April, bamboo shoots of the Huju bamboo came out of the ground. In May, ground leeches begin to show their faces. In October, the leaves of trees became golden, then red. The first snow announced the coming of winter.
Wolong Reserve Development
As of the late 2000s, the Wolong reserve had a 20 percent share in a local state-controlled tourism company; which according to The Economist “raises questions of whether the pandas' and the tourism industry's interests are perfectly aligned. Zhang Hemin, Wolong's director, says that pandas are not as afraid of human beings as is generally believed. They have even been known, he says, to cross roads and wander into urban areas (though few of Wolong's panda experts have seen one in the wild). Others say human noises and smells scare pandas, even at a distance. The Sichuan government says it is promoting “eco-tourism”, but Fan Zhiyong of WWF, a conservation group (and a big contributor to panda conservation in China), is sceptical. “I sometimes ask, what is eco-tourism? Nobody can give me good answers,” he says. [Source: The Economist, December 19, 2007]
According to the China government: Wolong Natural Reserve has 938 thousand EKW of potential hydroenergy, 35 thousand of which has been utilized to produce electric power. In the reserve, 23 types of minerals, three thermal springs have been found. The thermal spring in the Silver-factory Valley has colorless crystal water with a temperature of 40 degrees C; and there is cream white sediment in the bottom, which are identified as strontium metasillicio. The mineral spring water in that thermal spring is of good quality and great medical value.
The Wolong Center suffered serious damage during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. It was closed for about a year. Geologists searched for a better place to put it and the 4,500 people that live in the reserve. Almost half of the money from an aid package from Hong Kong for the 2008 earthquake — almost U.S.$ 110 million — was used to restore the panda reserve at Wolong. Much of the money went into building a 4½ kilometer road to the center. In April 2009, China announced that it was building a new breeding center about 100 kilometers from the original Wolong site. The new site was chosen based on its favorable weather, water, environment and geology.
Wolong Reserve and Local People
Wolong Natural Reserve is located in the autonomous prefecture of the Tibetan and Qiang nationalities of Aba in Sichuan province. Some Tibetan and Qiang in the reserve live in simple, traditional undecorated wood and stone houses. A few wear traditional clothes and most speak Tibetan or Qiang languages. Tibetans and Qiang have lived in what became Wolong for maybe thousands of years. They have a distinctive lifestyle and customs that conform well to their environment. From Gengda town to the "51 station" in Wolong, local villagers, led by the local government, have planted a lot of bamboos that are edible to giant pandas.
Jennifer S. Holland wrote in National Geographic Traveller: “Some villagers have found work building a new highway that tunnels through mountains between Chengdu and Wolong. Others who gave up their fields and livestock remain jobless. Some refuse to let go of their old life. Li Shufang, a 75-year-old woman I visited in the simple home she shares with relatives, walks several hours a day, up and down the mountain, to tend to pigs and a garden where the family lived before the quake. When I asked how she felt about making way for pandas, she spat back in a local dialect, “Why didn’t they move the pandas instead?” Others I met seemed more content with the “easier” life in the village, though few are currently benefiting directly from pandamania. With a new panda breeding and education center called Gengda in Wolong, “perhaps when the road is complete and tourists start coming, we will make money and feel better about pandas being so important to the government,” said a local man. “Right now, to me, a panda is just a bear, nothing special.”[Source: Jennifer S. Holland, National Geographic Traveller, August, 2016]
“To turn the reclaimed land into bear habitat, locals are hired to plant seedlings where forests were diminished by logging or quake damage. The Chinese have focused on quick-growing tree species, whose roots inhibit erosion. But those species don’t make good panda habitat: The most nutritious bamboos grow in the understory of old-growth forests, which take decades to mature. The mountainous terrain makes it hard to plant on a large scale—so the landscape remains fragmented, which means the panda populations do too.
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries: Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains
Among the 1,800 giant pandas in the wild, about 85 percent are in Sichuan. Among China’s 19 panda natural reserves, 17 are in Sichuan. Wolong is one of the world’s largest nature reserves and reproduction centers for pandas.Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries-Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 2006. According to UNESCO: “ The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary includes more than 30 percent of the world’s population of giant Panda and constitutes the largest and most significant remaining contiguous area of panda habitat in the world. It is the most important source of giant panda for establishing the captive breeding population of the species. The property is also one of the botanically richest sites of any temperate region in the world or indeed anywhere outside of the tropical rain forests. Underlining the outstanding value is that it protects a wide variety of topography, geology, and plant and animal species. The property has exceptional value for biodiversity conservation and can demonstrate how ecosystem management systems can work across the borders of national and provincial protected areas. [Source: UNESCO]
“Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries...covers 924,500 hectares with seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks in the Qionglai and Jiajin Mountains. The sanctuaries constitute the largest remaining contiguous habitat of the giant panda, a relict from the paleo-tropic forests of the Tertiary Era. It is also the species' most important site for captive breeding. The sanctuaries are home to other globally endangered animals such as the red panda, the snow leopard and clouded leopard. They are among the botanically richest sites of any region in the world outside the tropical rainforests, with between 5,000 and 6,000 species of flora in over 1,000 genera. Associated Press
“Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries-Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains is principally renowned for its importance for the conservation of the giant panda, recognized as a “National Treasure” in China and as a flagship for global conservation efforts. The property is the largest and most significant remaining contiguous area of panda habitat in China and thus the world. It is also the most important source of giant panda for establishing the captive breeding population of the species.
In addition to the giant panda, the property features a great number of endemic and threatened species of plants and animals, including other iconic mammal species such as the red panda, snow leopard and clouded leopard among the 109 species of mammals recorded (more than 20 percent of all Chinese mammals). The property is an important centre of endemism for some bird taxa with 365 bird species recorded, 300 of which breed locally. However the property is particularly important for flora, being one of the botanically richest sites of any temperate region in the world with some 5,000-6,000 species recorded. Many species are relicts, such as the dove tree, and there is significant diversity in groups such as magnolias, bamboos, rhododendrons, and orchids. The property is a major source and gene pool for hundreds of traditional medicinal plants, many now under threat.
“Located in China’s southeast province of Sichuan in the Qionglai and Jiajin Mountains between the Chengdu Plateau and the Tibetan-Qinghaian Plateau, the property includes seven nature reserves and eleven scenic parks in four prefectures or cities. It covers a total area of 924,500 hectares surrounded by a buffer zone of 527,100 hectares.”
Conservation at the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries
According to UNESCO: “The boundaries of the property have been designed to maximize the protection of giant panda habitat based on panda survey data carried out in 2003-2004, as well as the distribution of existing natural habitat. Fragmentation of habitat makes it essential that large intact areas of panda habitat are adequately protected and also that green corridors are established to enable movement of panda species and to avoid inbreeding. A number of towns, villages, agriculture land, major infrastructures and sites of high impact tourism have been excluded from the property, leaving enclaves. [Source: UNESCO]
“Integrity issues include the need to enhance integrated monitoring and management capacity across all 18 management units of the property; establish and implement tourism management plans and tourism impact monitoring programmes; review existing infrastructure within the property with a view to better controlling impacts and, where possible, to remove infrastructure and allow habitat restoration with native species; ensure the "Sichuan World Heritage Management Committee" has sufficient powers, resources and authority to ensure it can effectively carry out its role in relation to management of the property; and to closely monitor the impact of the dam at Yaoji, and the associated relocation of people. Reviewing the possibilities for future addition of areas of high nature conservation value to the property, with priority on those areas which are particularly important for panda habitat and which are close to but outside the property (such as the Rongjin Nature Reserve which is as a critical link between the giant panda populations of Quionglaishan and Liangshan), is also recommended.
“The Property is wholly owned by the government of the People’s Republic of China. It is protected under a range of laws and regulations at national and provincial levels, including: Regulations on Wild Plant Protection of the People 's Republic of China (1997): Forest Law of the People 's Republic of China (1998); Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China (2002), Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves (2002);
“A management plan of 2002 aims to ensure that “The biodiversity, ecosystem and habitat of the giant panda will be effectively protected in the World Heritage site and social and economic development of the human population in the area will be harmonized with the natural environment guidelines for the area and for management of different types of use”. It provides a sound framework for site management and conservation.
“The property is currently well-protected and in good condition. Following the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale, a restoration and reconstruction plan for the property has been compiled and implemented. Future management priorities include to progressively increase the level of staffing and resources within all reserves within the property; improve the coordination relationship between all reserves within the property; better support scientific research and education; and maximize the tourism benefit and minimize the tourism impact.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Nolls China Web site; CNTO; Perrochon photo site; Beifan.com; University of Washington; Ohio State University; UNESCO; Wikipedia; Julie Chao photo site
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2022