Home>> Giant Pandas>>Threats to Giant Pandas

Threats to Giant Panda

1. Why has the panda population declined?

Habitat fragmentation and loss. The greatest threat to the giant panda population is that the area in which they live is becoming smaller and more fragmented. This is because of human activities such as logging, expansion of farming into forest areas, mining, and road-building.

Poaching. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were a number of cases of panda poaching, but this has declined due to strict laws and greater public awareness of the panda protected status. People hunting for other animals in the panda habitat also pose a threat, however. The traps they set for musk deer or bear may accidentally kill giant pandas. Habitat degradation. In the remote areas where pandas live, local people depend on the forest for fuel wood and timber for building homes. They also collect wild plants and animals to sell for use as ingredients in traditional medicines or as food. When there were few people and lots of forest, none of these practices was a threat to the pandas, but nowadays they cause severe damage to the remaining forests.

Reproduction in captivity. Because of a low birth rate and high infant death rate, the captive panda population is not yet sustainable. Without a surplus of pandas in zoos, it is difficult to re-introduce captive pandas into the wild.

2. What is the most dangerous threat facing giant pandas?

Habitat destruction and fragmentation are doing the most damage to giant panda populations. Protecting the panda’s habitat is the most important step in giant panda conservation.

3. Is it true that people are executed for killing pandas?

Before the revision of the Criminal Law of China in 1997, a person convicted of killing a giant panda could receive the death penalty, and some panda poachers were in fact executed. According to the revised law, the most severe penalty for panda poaching today is over 10 years in prison.

4. What is bamboo flowering?

Bamboo flowers every 30 to 120 years depending on the species. All the bamboo plants of a species in one area will flower at the same time, after which they die-off and don’t grow again for several years. After a die-off, it can take up to 10 years before the new bamboo can support a panda population again. In the meantime, the panda must find another species of bamboo to eat.

5. Does bamboo flowering affect giant panda populations?

The cycle of bamboo growth can create problems for pandas since they are dependent on bamboo for food. After a bamboo species flowers and dies off it reduces bamboo availability in large areas. However, typically at least two species of bamboo are found in a panda habitat area. When one species is in short supply, pandas normally switch to other species, or expand their home range to areas where bamboo has not flowered. However, where a panda's habitat has been fragmented by human activity, migration to areas where bamboo is still plentiful can be obstructed.

6. Some have said the giant panda could become extinct within the next 50 years. Is this true?

It not at all likely that the giant panda will become extinct so soon. Studies indicate that the giant panda has the potential to increase its numbers in the wild as long as its habitat is protected. The future of the giant panda was significantly improved by a 1998 ban on logging. Before 1998, over half of the panda’s habitat had been cut down in less than 20 years. By banning logging of the forests pandas live in, China has removed a big threat to pandas and thousands of other species.

7. Is the panda an evolutionary ead-end?Some people say it should be allowed to go extinct because it is not well-enough adapted to survive.

Some people have seen the problems that pandas have in zoos and mistakenly concluded that the panda has genetic or adaptive problems. Pandas are actually very well-adapted and successful in their natural habitat. They are endangered because of human actions like forest destruction and poaching, not because of any problem with their genes.