Giant Panda – National Geographic Creative Collection

Close up portrait of a giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

Close up portrait of a giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

It’s a good week to be a Giant Panda. News has just broke that the species has been upgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), the organisation responsible for assessing and monitoring the status of the world’s animal and plant species.

In 2011 I did a story titled ‘The Panda’s Forest: Biodiversity Loss‘ which focused on the efforts of the Chengdu Panda Breeding Center in Sichuan Province, in south-west China, central to the efforts to saving the species. Here’s an excerpt of the beginning of the story…

A giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, in it's enclosure.

A giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, in it’s enclosure.

“It was hard not to be entranced by the small ball of black and white fur before me. A cool summer breeze washed over us as I craned my neck, trying to catch another glimpse of this elusive creature before it dived back into the undergrowth.

At the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (CRBGPB), you have to visit early to get the best glimpse of China’s most famous resident. Before the mid-day summer heat descends, the pandas munch on ample supplies of bamboo fed to them by their army of keepers, before retreating to their air-conditioned enclosures to sleep away the remainder of the day.

Close up portrait of a giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

Close up portrait of a giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

The 80 or so pandas that reside at the base are treated like royalty, with thousands of tourists excitedly streaming through the park’s gates every day just to catch a glimpse of them.

The giant panda has become a Chinese icon and a global symbol of conservation, ever since the World Wildlife Fund adopted them for their logo in 1961. Ironically, they have also come to symbolize the stark reality of severe global biodiversity loss, especially in China.

Today, the giant panda’s natural habitat is confined to a sliver of mountain ranges extending through northern Sichuan province and into the neighboring provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi. Massive forest loss across China up until the late 1990s, has been the main cause for the disappearance of the species’ habitat. China’s unquenchable thirst for the forests resources in its early stages of modern development slowly erased the mountainous forests which are home to the panda.” Read More

A giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, sleeping.

A giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, sleeping.

While the upgrade in status is really encouraging for the Giant Panda, the species still face many challenges in a fast changing and developing western China. Knowing the importance of this species to the Chinese people however, if there is one species that stands a good chance of survival in the age of the anthropocene, it’s the Giant Panda.

Below are more images that are available through National Geographic. Click the images for more details:

Two giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, standing at a door.

Two giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, standing at a door.

A pair of a giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, interacting.

A pair of a giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, interacting.

A newborn giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, in an incubator.

A newborn giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, in an incubator.

A giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, in a tree.

A giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, in a tree.

Portrait of a seated giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

Portrait of a seated giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

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