Panda protection in Gansu paying off
Panda protection in Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve in Northwest China's Gansu Province has helped the iconic bears increase their numbers.
The third survey conducted by the provincial forestry authority shows the number of pandas has reached 102 - six more than 12 years ago.
The increase is a result of increased cash for the endangered animal's protection in recent years.
The annual fund for panda protection has surpassed 6 million yuan (US$720,000).
Illegal activities like opening mineral mines, gold prospecting or logging in panda habitats have been curtailed, said the authority.
"Co-operation with World Wildlife Fund and other international organizations has also had an impact," the reserve's Huang Chenxiang told China Daily.
He added: "Projects to protect the natural forest, its wildlife and the constructions of nature reserves have greatly improved the ecosystems."
More than 26,670 hectares of farm land in the reserve has been turned back to forest, expanding the pandas' habitat.
This, along with the planting of arrow bamboos in the area - the panda's favourite food - has also improved breeding conditions and led to a subsequent increase in population."The panda numbers in this reserve, which covers 220,000 hectares, accounts for 87.2 per cent of the province and 6.4 per cent of the national's total," said Huang.
But the reserve is still facing great challenges. The survey found that 12 per cent of the planted bamboos showed a signs of blooming, rendering it inedible.
"The staff are monitoring the growth situation and trend of the bamboo and conditions of the affected pandas," Huang said.
"Preparations have been made to put in mutton as substitute food," he added.
If the situation worsens, the pandas in that area will be transferred to a safe area.
Since the 1970s, many in the reserve have died because of food shortages.
In 1992, when the second survey was conducted, the number of pandas was shown to have decreased to 96 from over 200.
In the past 10 years, a total of 9,820 hectares of bamboo crop failures have affected 22 pandas.
China has around 1,600 pandas living mainly in the western provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu.
Establishing protective areas has been a major way to protect them.
More than 40 protective areas have been set up.
The forestry coverage for the pandas' habitat in the country has reached 20,000 square kilometres, an increase of 50 per cent compared to 20 years ago. And the species of wild pandas have also begun to increase.
More than 20 million hectares of forest has been brought under protection and 3.61 million hectares of forest have been planted since 1997.
(China Daily 02/15/2005 page2)