The panda, also called giant panda, is a large animal that belongs to the bear family. The panda is native to central China where they live in a few select mountain ranges. These animals once occupied a much larger area, but there are now estimated to be only 1000-3000 left in the wild. This means that panda is now considered to be an endangered species and efforts are underway to protect this much loved animal. Let’s find out why the panda is listed as an endangered species.
Why are pandas an endangered species?
The first threat to the panda was poaching for food and/or the soft fur. Poaching existed since ancient times, but the rate of poaching increased after the animal became known around the world and during the Chinese population boom in the 1940′s. Although poaching is no longer a major threat to pandas it did cause a significant drop in the population.
The greatest modern threat to the species is the loss of their habitat. Since the middle of the last century China has undergone a population boom and much of the traditional habitat of the animal has been destroyed for human habitation, agriculture, resources (mining and logging) and other forms of manmade development. These forms of development drove the panda from the lowland areas and means that they are only found in the mountains where human development has not yet affected their habitat.
Another reason that pandas have remained on the endangered list is that they have a very low birth rate in the wild. A mother usually gives birth to one or two young, but will only choose the strongest of these to raise. Pandas are also notoriously difficult to breed in captivity.
Did you know?
Conservation efforts to protect this animal focus on habitat protection, captive breeding and environmental research. There are over 40 panda reserves in China today and more are proposed for the future.
Unfortunately, early efforts to protect the animals were unsuccessful because it was believed that the best way to protect the animals was to cage them!