Why Were Pandas Endangered? What is Being Done to Prevent it.
There are numerous animals on the endangered species list. Those animals are considered endangered for many different reasons, however the most common is loss of habitat. However, one species that made a miraculous comeback was the Panda. Even though the Panda habitat is still extremely small, the animals managed to make the most of a bad situation and continue to thrive. How were these bears able to come back from the brink? And why were pandas endangered in the first place?
Why Were Pandas Endangered
Before we jump right into the drama of things, let’s get the basics out of the way. What are pandas? People probably know about pandas a little from the animated movie “Kung-Fu Panda”. Unfortunately to my knowledge, that is the only one of its species that can do Kung-Fu. But, they did get one thing right in the movie. Pandas are pretty big creatures. They are native to the mountain forests of southwest China and is actually considered one of the most beloved animals in the world. They are easily recognized by their black and white color. Basically, they look like a bear with classic cow colors. Two big round black spots over its eyes, a white head with black ears, and a mostly black body.
In 2014, they were still considered endangered and there were only about 1,600 still alive. As of September 2016, there were 1,864 pandas alive in the world and they were taken off the endangered species list. Currently, there are 2,060 living in the wild. Pandas are making a amazing effort to stay alive and thrive in the what they have. However, even though the species is not considered endangered anymore, they are still highly vulnerable to extinction.
How Do Pandas Live
Pandas can be found all over the world in zoos, but to find them in the wild can be tricky. They are only found in the remote mountainous regions of central to southwest China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. Their habitat is mostly chosen because of their diet. In these areas, there are cool, wet bamboo forests which are perfect for the needs of the panda. In fact, their hunger for bamboo is nearly insatiable. They eat bamboo 12 hours a day, which makes up 28 lbs of bamboo each day that they eat. And you thought you really loved food. For all you food lovers who just can’t get enough. I think you just found your spirit animal. In addition to a lot of bamboo, they also eat rodents, fish, insects, and birds. Basically they are the ultimate omnivore.
Their personality is as unique as their appetite. They actually greatly dislike being around other pandas. They hate it so much so that they use their heightened sense of smell to know when another panda is nearby so they can avoid them. If two get too close, they end up swatting and growling at each other, occasionally even biting each other. The only time pandas will actively seek each other out is during the mating season. Even then, they are extremely selective when choosing a mate. If we were all as selective as pandas as choosing a spouse, I don’t think anyone would be married right now. In addition, females are only fertile in the spring and even then just for a few days. All of these things factor into the question why were pandas endangered.
Pandas have been on the endangered species list since 1988. Since then, their numbers been in flux. But why is this and why were pandas endangered? Well, there are a few reasons. As said before, pandas have a very selective process and a short mating season. This means that pandas in the wild have a very difficult time procreating. For that reason, the number of pandas has remained low for decades. In addition to their low reproduction, baby pandas have a very hard time surviving in the wild. Typically, a female panda will give birth to one or two babies at a time. Unfortunately, often times only one baby survives. This is because cubs only weigh from 4 to 8 ounces at birth and require a lot of care. They are also technically blind at birth which makes things even more difficult. They are unable to crawl or see for about two months which makes them extremely vulnerable and easy prey for predators.
However, since panda breeding began in 1980, the information scientists have discovered about pandas and their behavior and nutrition, nearly every panda born in “captivity” survive. I put captivity in quotations because even though they are kept on reserves, they are not held captive in the traditional way that most people think. This form of captivity is the best way to keep the species alive. Also, due to the small size of the infant pandas and the hugeness of the mother, it is not uncommon for the mother to accidently crush her babies. It is no fault of the mother panda, it is just that the babies can easily get lost and she can not see what is beneath her. If you thought caring for a human baby was hard, try this for a week.
Now onto the main reason why were pandas endangered and why they are still at risk right now, their habitat. About 60% of pandas live on nature reserves that have 2.5 million acres of protected habitat. However, the natural panda habitat is dwindling more and more every year, due to logging, human encroachment, road construction, and agriculture. With all of these factors, the panda habitat is being divided into tiny sections, which is a process known as fragmentation. This has been happening since 1990, around the time when pandas were actually declared endangered.
Unfortunately, the panda habitat is smaller now more than ever, even more than when they were endangered. Villages, roads, and agriculture have been taking up most of the land between reserves, separating many pandas from each other. And while this might seem as an okay thing since pandas do not like being around other pandas, it becomes a huge problem during the mating season. Because these highways, buildings and other infrastructure are now blocking their natural path, pandas are unable to find suitable mates and produce offspring.
In addition to slow reproduction and loss of habitat, panda poaching has also lead to the species decline. Poachers are always after exotic and rare animals. Elephant tusks, lions, and many other including the panda. They target the panda for its fur, as is the case with many other animals. Sometimes, pandas are not even the ones targeted. Poachers will leave traps intended for other animals. Unfortunately, the pandas often get caught and killed by these traps. Poachers are not as big of a threat as they once were but still need to be watched out for. Poaching was one of the big reasons for the decline of the species back in past times. The chinese government does mandate prison time and are especially keeping an eye on panda habitats for poachers, but they are always a risk.
Oh yes, that is right. Climate change strikes again. While climate change has not been the cause of the panda decline in the past, it is 100% possible for the coming future. A new study predicts that climate change is set to wipe out much of the bamboo which the the pandas greatly rely on for their food source.
Also, the infrastructure built up by man often times blocks the pandas from reaching areas where the bamboo has been unaffected by the rising temperatures. Many scientists and researchers believe that the bamboo availability could be extinguished in 80 years or less.
Why were pandas endangered? Mainly due to human activity. Why were pandas endangered? Because we have built roads and buildings through their natural habitat. If you are still asking yourself why were pandas endangered than you haven’t been paying attention. Yes, their behavior make it hard for them to survive in the first place but we have made it nearly impossible.
The Chinese government, along with many conservation groups like the World Wildlife Foundation and others have been funding and striving towards better conservation efforts. The Chinese government a funded efforts with billions of dollars for incentives and other programs. In addition, 67 reserves have been created to help the pandas thrive.
In relation to the fragmentation of panda reserves and habitat, there are plans in motion to create corridors in the form of tunnels to connect the segregated panda colonies. Given the current levels of conservation, and the implementation of China’s urbanisation plan, many researchers say it is likely that some of the pressures on pandas and their habitats would decrease. Going back to the panda reserves, many of them offer treatment for sick pandas and even breed the pandas in captivity before releasing them into the reserve. As said before, captivity might sound bad, but in this instance it may what be keeping the species alive. Tourists who come to these reserves and thoroughly educated about the conservation efforts. Other conservation efforts include the focus on maintaining and restoring the bamboo population.
If the panda is going to survive and stay off of the endangered species list, many things need to happen. Climate change is just one of the future risks that they face, however it is something that can 100% be avoided. Do your part today to reduce the effects of global warming.