Why Were Giant Pandas Endangered Before the Year 2016

Before 2016, giant pandas had been listed as endangered animals. The reasons behind their endangerment are a combination of environmental changes, human activities, and the characteristic of this species itself.

First of all, in ancient times, giant pandas have been heavily killed by humans for meat, also for their skin, and beautiful fur.

Also, as humans develop civilization, they have cleared much of the forest to farmland and living areas. Deforestation not only reduces the land of living for giant pandas but also reduces the amount of bamboo. Since bamboo is the main food for giant pandas, this has hugely affected their living status. On the one hand, these human activities have led to permanent habitat loss or fragmentation in many areas. On the other hand, giant pandas are sole walkers and do not live together. One panda needs between 2.5 to 4 square miles (10 million m2) of land to survive. A couple in mating season need about 10 square miles of land. For example, wild pandas once roamed in China, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. But today, they are found only in limited areas of China.

One other reason is that giant pandas have very low fertility. The female panda is only fertile for two or three days in a year, and they are very choosy for a mate. What’s more, one female panda only gives birth to one or two at most a time every two years. This means only three to four cubs by a female panda for a lifetime.

After birth, cubs have a really low survival rate, especially in the wild. They are vulnerable and blind when born, and cannot stand at all. Not to mention, they may be accidentally crushed by the mother panda.

Giant Pandas Are No Longer “Endangered”, but “Vulnerable”

In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) removed giant pandas from the list of “endangered” species and updated the status to “vulnerable”. The latest estimate number of giant pandas has largely increased to 2,060 from just a bit more than 1000 in the early 21 century.

Giant Pandas Still at Risk, Continuous Help Needed

Although it’s encouraging giant pandas are no longer endangered now, their status exalted, and there are not so many natural predators for such big panda bears, giant pandas are still at risk with a “vulnerable” situation. The truth is human activities and earthquakes have imposed severe threats to pandas, as a result only over 1,800 pandas are left in the wild.

The average life span for giant pandas is 15-20 years in the wild, and up to 30 in captivity. The oldest giant panda “Jiajia” died in the year of 38 in 2016. The fertility rate for giant pandas remains quite low, especially for those in the wild.

Giant pandas are still scattered and vulnerable. Their habitats are fragmented and even lost by the influence of human activities and natural disasters. Those bamboo species giant panda love also face challenges in the meantime. Giant pandas’ diet could be severely threatened. Continuous efforts need to pay for panda protection and breeding.

Also remember there are mainly two recognized subspecies of giant pandas living now: the more common “Sichuan” populations and the rarer “Qinling” ones. Fewer than 350 Qinling pandas remain extant today in remote habitat fragments, mostly in Shaanxi. Great and ongoing efforts have been put to research in the breeding and restore species of giant pandas as many as possible. But still “Qinling” subspecies only account for less than 20% of the total number of giant pandas. Panda protection bases in Sichuan and Shaanxi have been cultivating the two species and keep the families develop. All the newborn pandas in China and any other countries are reported back to panda hometown. The genes of these cubs are recorded for this great course for species diversity. But the cold truth is the genetic diversity of captive-bred is still low.