Chinese scientists have announced that the giant panda that most of us know and love is at risk.
One of the world’s most beloved animals, the Giant Panda, is in trouble, Chinese scientists announced Monday. And the creation of those adorable baby pandas is at risk.
Researchers report that the lovable bears’ habitat in China — the only nation on Earth where pandas live in the wild — has been shrinking and fragmenting over the past three decades.
Overall, panda habitats are in worse shape today than when the species was first listed as endangered in 1988, according to the new study, which was published in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Earthquakes, human encroachment, agriculture, road building and logging have all contributed to dividing pandas’ habitats into smaller areas, the study found. This is a process known as fragmentation.
This can wreak havoc “on panda sex,” said study co-author Stuart Pimm of Duke University, noting that because of the splintering of the species, some groups could end up being all male, or others all female, for example.
The bad news comes despite the fact that the species’ status was upgraded last year: “The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently changed the status of the giant panda from ‘endangered’ to the less threatened ‘vulnerable,'” Pimm said. “This was based on the increasing numbers, which are a very encouraging sign, of course.”
An estimated 1,900 pandas now live in the wild, which is actually up a few hundred from the 1980s.
Still, the results from this new study add an element of caution to the recent optimism. The information about shrinking habitat was not available when the animals’ status was upgraded.
Xiang Xiang turned 100 days last week, which makes her old enough to get a name, after she became the first panda in 30 years to survive this long at a Tokyo zoo.
Video provided by Reuters
To conduct the research, Pimm, Ouyang Zhiyun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and several other co-authors used satellite imagery to examine changes across the panda’s entire geographic range from 1976 to 2013.
With new technology such as remote sensing or GIS, “we can now do much…