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Giant pandas enjoy larger habitat in SW China
Updated: 2004-08-21 14:02

The habitat of giant pandas in southwest China's Sichuan Province has increased 70 percent in the last two decades ago to cover more than 17,000 square kilometers, according to the latest statistics from the provincial forestry department.

Sichuan is one of the three Chinese provinces in which giant pandas live. With 35 nature preserves, Sichuan boasts 1,206 wild giant pandas, accounting for 76 percent the total pandas in China, said Yang Dongsheng, head of Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department.

The number of wild giant pandas in the province rose 30 percent from the figure in the 1980s, Yang said.

The province also has 118 giant pandas in captivity.

The central and provincial governments invested 160 million yuan (nearly 20 million US dollars) into panda protection programs since 1992.

Yu Jianqiu, a giant panda expert, said that the expansion of the habitat for the animal also owes to the country's forests protection efforts.

With the continuous improvement of the ecosystem in the province, parts of giant panda habitat which were damaged by deforestation in the past are gradually recovering, Yu said.

Statistics showed that 19.2 million hectares of forests in the province with a land area of more than 500,000 square kilometers are protected. Forest coverage in the province has risen from 24 percent in 1998 to 26.6 percent at present.

There are more than 1,500 wild giant pandas in the world, all of which live in the mountainous areas of the three Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu.

China built its first natural preserve for giant pandas and began to ban poaching in the 1950s. The pandas were put under state protection since 1962.

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