In times of distress like we are currently experiencing on a global scale, it’s hard to think about anything else but our health and the health of our loved ones. Reflecting on that, we thought about some things that can still put a smile on many faces, for at least a little while. National Panda Day came to mind since it’s the one day dedicated to the awareness of one of the world’s most beloved animals. Pandas are still “vulnerable” to extinction according to the IUCN Red List, mainly because of threats to their habitat by deforestation and development, but also because of poaching, as panda skins and pelts are valuable on the black market.
All giant pandas have black ears, black fur around their white heads, a black band around their upper bodies and a white midsection, making it difficult to tell them apart. Not only are they beautiful and unique creatures, but they also play a key role in the bamboo forests of China by spreading seed and helping the growth of vegetation. Their diet is 99% bamboo which they munch on, up to fourteen hours a day. They have a wrist bone that helps them hold on to the bamboo, kind of like a thumb. Beloved for their playful nature and cute personalities, they are well equipped to live in the cooler forests of southwest China where they are considered to be a national treasure.
Most of the remaining wild pandas live in the Minshan and Qinling mountains. And it is here that WWF has focused its giant panda conservation work, supporting the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve the species. After a significant increase in recent years, China now boasts a network of 67 panda reserves, which safeguard more than 66% of the giant pandas in the wild and almost 54% of their existing habitat. The Chinese government, in partnership with WWF, has also developed bamboo corridors to link isolated pockets of forest, allowing the pandas within them to move to new areas, find more food and meet more potential breeding mates.
With the numbers of pandas slowly increasing in the wild, as well as in reserves, they are being described as an umbrella species — because protecting panda habitats also protects other species —and, in addition, the biodiversity of Chinese panda reserves, are among the highest in the temperate world. By saving the pandas and their habitats the livelihoods of local communities are greatly improved. These natural, lush habitats provide food, income, fuel for cooking and heating, and medicine. The panda’s mountains form watersheds for both the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, which are the economic heart of China for tourism, fishery, and agriculture, transport, hydropower and water resources.
The interconnectivity of this wonderful species perfectly illustrates why very creature on earth needs to be conserved for the greater benefit to the planet as a whole.
You can help spread the word about their conservation. Organizations such as WWF, promote actions such as submitting free e-cards to friends and family, as well as purchasing ringtones and wallpapers with the theme, and even adding a link to the WWF site and share with your friends. Happy National Panda Day!