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Panda numbers up 40 per cent
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-20 02:37

There has been a steady increase in the number of rare and endangered wildlife, including the rare and endangered giant panda because of enlarged habitats and improved ecosystems.

A panda ambles in a zoo in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province in this December 22, 2004 file photo. [newsphoto]
"Shrinkage of habitat caused by worsening local ecosystems has more or less been controlled following China's rehabilitation of forestry resources that kicked off in the 1990s," a leading forestry official said yesterday in Beijing.

Addressing a national conference, Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said "some rare and endangered species of wildlife have multiplied -- including the Chinese alligator and crested ibis."

Quoting the latest survey by SFA on China's wildlife and wetlands resources, he said, of the increased number of wild animals, more than half of them are terrestrial.

He estimated that the number of giant pandas, one of the most popular of all wild animals both at home and abroad, "is up 40 per cent over the number that was recorded before 2000."

"Their number increased from 1,114 before 2000 to the present 1,596" while the number of crested ibis, one of the world's rarest species, known as an "oriental fossil," in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, jumped from only 7 to 740, said Lei Jiafu, SFA's deputy director.

So far, forestry authorities have brought the distribution areas of China's 130 wild plants and habitats for more than 300 wild animals under effective protection, according to statistics released by SFA yesterday.

Of China's 189 species of rare and extremely endangered species of wild plants, 71 per cent have been stabilized, Zhou said.

Best of all, new distribution areas of arborvitae, an endangered species which has tailed off for more than 100 years according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), has been rediscovered in the remote Daba Mountains in Southwest China's Chongqing, as have the white-aril yew and tsoong's tree.

Meanwhile, species of wild animals and birds have been found to have enlarged their living spaces.

Years ago, giant pandas only occupied about 1.4 million hectares, fragmented into isolated patches in southwestern China's 11 counties.

"Now, their habitats cover 2.3 million hectares of areas dotted across in 45 southwestern counties and parts of the Northwest provinces. Living space had been enlarged by 65 per cent, Zhou said.

New distribution and breeding areas or overwintering habitats were also reported for some highly protected rare and endangered species of birds including black-faced spoonbills, relic gulls and brown-eared pheasants.

Zhou attributed the improvements to China's efforts to preserve its existing forestry resources through unremitting and massive afforestation and intensified protection of wetlands which were initiated in the late 1990s.

"China is one of the world's countries abundant in the varieties of wetlands. So far, we have put 40 per cent of our total wetlands into effective protection and many of their ecological functions have begun rehabilitating," he said.

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