Happy National Panda Day! Today we celebrate these sweet animals with their distinctive coloring and bring awareness to the panda’s plight.
In 1984, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially listed the giant panda as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They tragically became endangered due to excessive poaching and deforestation that depleted their bamboo food source. The panda became a symbol of the conservation movement across the globe— a call to action to preserve endangered species and natural wildlife environments.
Although wild panda numbers are finally rebounding after years of decline because of the reproduction efforts in zoos as well as reforestation and conservation campaigns, they are still vulnerable and at risk. Severe threats from humans have left approximately 1,800 pandas in the wild.
There are over 600 pandas currently in captivity which is key to their survival. Pandas only live around 15 to 20 years in the wild, but those in captivity can live even longer. Reproduction is much more difficult in the wild as well.
Why do pandas matter? We could go on and on, but one overarching reason is because of the critical role they play in forest ecosystems. According to the WWF, the biological diversity of the panda’s habitat is unparalleled in the temperate world and rivals that of tropical ecosystems, making the giant panda an excellent example of an umbrella species conferring protection on many other species. By protecting pandas, we invariably protect other animals that live around them. A scientific paper published in 2015 by The Society for Conservation Biology stated that preserving the natural habitat of the giant panda also helps 70 percent of the country’s forest birds, 70 percent of mammals and 31 percent of amphibians.
Together, we can make a difference for these treasured animals. Our recent documentary, Escape From Extinction, examines the work of the major zoological organizations that are racing against the clock to preserve the million species disappearing in today’s Sixth Mass Extinction. Certified zoos and aquariums may be among the last, best chances to save Earth’s incredible animals – including the adored panda. To learn more about our conservation program, visit http://humaneconservation.org/.