China is Creating a New Gigantic Panda Reserve

The proposed park will be almost three times larger than Yellowstone Park in the United States.



China is Creating a New Gigantic Panda Reserve | The proposed park will be almost three times larger than Yellowstone Park in the United States.

Panda bears are incredibly cute creatures. People flock to zoos worldwide to see the playful pandas climbing, rolling and munching on bamboo, lots of bamboo. The birth of a new panda cub regularly makes front-page news. All this adorableness has made the panda the unofficial mascot of China.

The giant panda inhabits a few mountain ranges in central China, with 80 percent of the species live in Sichuan Province. According to the most recent World Wildlife Fund census, an estimated total of 1,864 wild adult bears roam the earth, and the population is growing. So much so, that pandas are no longer considered endangered.

Now the government of China is planning the creation of a huge Giant Panda National Park in the Sichuan province to protect the bears and their habitat. The new park will span an astonishing 10,500 square miles (about 27,000 square kilometers) – nearly three times the size of Yellowstone in the US and almost as big as the entire country of Belgium.

Logging, agriculture, road building, and natural disasters like the earthquake that struck the region in 2008 have destroyed the panda's habitat and broken the population into separate groups; some of them quite small.

The proposed park area contains dozens of established panda reserves and other protected areas that contain many endangered or threatened species, according to National Geographic. Now, these areas will be linked together, and the more than 30 separate groups of pandas in the region will be connected once again.

Speaking about the park, Bob Tansey, China policy advisor for the Nature Conservancy told National Geographic, “[It]takes the long view. Generally, pandas are doing well. But what will they need in the future? Connectivity.”

The park will improve the bears' ability to find mates and boost genetic diversity. It will also give the pandas room to roam and more places to find bamboo (the central part of their diet) as climate change shifts where the bamboo plants can grow.

The plans for the gigantic park are expected to be finalized in the fall of 2019, and the Chinese government is working to streamline the oversight and management under a new National Forestry and Grassland Administration. Many numerous government agencies have previously managed protected areas without a single unified vision. This is a very important change.

“Local governments, which have local-development priorities, sometimes had too much say over the natural [areas],” Luo Peng of the Chengdu Institute of Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the parks planner told National Geographic. “Coordination was not always effective.”

The park will be set up around a core protected area where all development will be forbidden, but other areas of the park will allow some tourism, farming, and local activities.

The government has already secured over 10 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in funding from the state-owned Bank of China for the project, according to the Associated Press.

The new national park is expected to be under construction until 2023. The additional jobs and tourism that the park will bring are anticipated to boost the local economy of the 170,000 people that live in the area of the proposed national park.

This is a winning proposition for the local people and the giant pandas who will now have a much greater chance to grow and thrive in their native region.

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