Threats to Giant Panda Bears and Reasons of Decrease in the Wild Panda Population

 Threats to giant panda bears, main reasons of decrease of wild panda population: poaching, habitat destruction and degradation, low reproductive rate, bamboo flowering etc.

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Destruction of the panda's natural habitat is now a major threat to the survival of the species. In the eleven years from 1973 to 1984, suitable habitat for the animal shrunk by 50 per cent in six isolated, but previously ideal, areas.

 In general there are many reasons for the dramatic decrease in the wild population of pandas. These reasons are complex and include factors such as poaching, habitat destruction and degradation, the panda's low reproductive rate and bamboo flowering, followed by death of the plant.

 Pandas face the problem of the bamboo flowering cycle. At regular intervals (ranging from 10 to 100 years depending on the species), bamboo plants flower over large areas and die. Although they regenerate from seed within a year, it can take up to 20 years before the bamboo can support a panda population again.

The habitat of the giant panda, suitable for the bamboo on which it survives, is a cold, damp coniferous forest. The elevation ranges from 1,200 to 3,400 metres ( 4,000 to 11,000 feet) high. In most of the areas in which they still roam wild, they must compete with farmers who farm the river valleys and the lower slopes of the mountains.

With few natural enemies other than man, the lifespan of giant pandas in the wild is thought to be twenty-five years or more.

In the wild, adult female pandas give birth once a year and usually produce two cubs in the litter. Normally only one will survive. A newborn cub will weigh around 5 ounces is all white and blind at birth. The black spots develop after about a month.

A cub will begin to eat bamboo at about six months and be fully weaned after nine months. At the end of the first year they are about 70 to 80 pounds. The cubs will stay with their mother for about 1 1/2 years.

Giant panda cubs are extremely vulnerable while the mother is away feeding on bamboo. During this time, the newborn is subject to predation by any number of predators.

The cubs will stay with the mother for the entire first year to year and a half. Normally they are driven off by their mother as she prepares to breed once more.

The survival of giant panda cubs is totally dependent on the skill of the mother in both protecting them and teaching them the basics of what to eat, where and how to get it, how to cope with danger and all the other skills of living in the wild

Tourism is an additional threat to panda habitat. Many tourists are eager to see the scenic beauty of western Sichuan. Glacial Lake, spectacular waterfalls, and winding valley floors can be in Jiuchaigon, the first panda reserve open to tourist. While tourism generates jobs and much needed income, it also brings cars, hotels, buses, trails, waste disposal problems, and habitat disturbance.

The fur trade has long been of considerable value to the Chinese economy (in the first half of 1934 the sale of furs from China brought in over $US 23 million, more than either tea of silk). Adult pandas are killed for their pelts. The panda’s distinctive black-and-white skin is valued as rugs, sleeping mats, wall hangings, and coat. 

Yet trappers have long been killing pandas by accident, in snare set for musk deer. The male musk deer is very valuable for its scent gland (or pod), which is used in the manufacture of expensive perfumes and in medicines. Each pod contains about 25 grams of musk –worth $1000. It is the living equivalent of gold. So for people whose monthly wage is $30 to $50, trapping musk deer has an irresistible appeal. As a result some pandas are also killed, strangled in the snares. In Wolong the 1974 census tallied 145 pandas; by 1986 there were only 72.

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