The giant panda is a well known (and well loved) species that is being driven close to extinction by habitat loss. It has become one of the most endangered mammals in the world, with fewer than 2,500 left. Although they have been protected from hunting and are on the endangered species list since 1984, pandas are still disappearing.
Their problem is complex. The giant panda eats bamboo and only bamboo. There is so little nutrition in bamboo that they have to eat for more than 14 hours a day to get the calories they need. They don't even have time to stop and hibernate. Without a bamboo forest on which to feed, all the pandas will die.
China has one of the most populated countries in the world. There are more people every year. To house and feed themselves, they cut down forests for farms and communities, including the shrinking bamboo forests. Sometimes pandas are left in small islands of bamboo surrounded by houses and highways - this is called habitat fragmentation. Worse yet, sometimes bamboo will die off and the pandas will have to go in search of a new bamboo forest -- if there is one.
Unless all development of the bamboo forests stop soon, there will be no more panda habitat and then no more pandas.
The Chinese government recognizes the great treasure they have in their pandas. They have protected more than 2.5 million acres of bamboo habitat in the hopes of saving the panda from extinction.
The panda is classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened species as VULNERABLE. Due to conservation afforts they are no longer lists on the Appendix l on CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) as endangered.
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