China’s giant panda has become a modern symbol of the country. It has commercial value and is used as a tool for international relationship-building and influence. Today’s best estimate is that there are some 1,600 giant pandas in the wild. Another 266 are held in captivity, about 10% in overseas zoos on a ten-year lease from the Chinese Government.
The species cannot survive without human help. Conservation efforts focus on the programmes at three national panda breeding centres in China. These facilities also serve as educational tourist attractions where visitors from around the world can experience the panda as close as possible to its natural habitat, and learn about efforts to save it.
National Panda Survey Begins in 2011
The 2008 Sichuan earthquake caused considerable concern for the Woolong Breeding Centre, home to 150 pandas, and raised questions about the effect on pandas in the wild. In the aftermath of the event, at a meeting in March 2010 hosted by the China State Forestry Administration (SFA) and attended by 50 administrators and scientists, it was announced that a major national survey of giant pandas would begin in 2011. This will be the fourth such survey, the last held 1998-2002.
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