At the UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2021, President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, announced the formal establishment of a network of five national parks, covering a total of 230,000 square kilometers and containing nearly 30% of the country’s key terrestrial wildlife species. One of these parks is called the Giant Panda National Park, which is dedicated to protecting and appreciating the giant panda, a bearlike mammal inhabiting bamboo forests in the mountains of central China.
China considers the giant panda to be its national treasure. It is one of the most adorable creatures across the globe. The official mascot of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was Bing Dwen Dwen, a giant fluffy panda that skis in an ice suit. Giant pandas spread throughout China, and even into Vietnam and Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of years ago. However, due to the aggravation of climate change, and the impact of human activities, the habitat of giant pandas has shrunk dramatically, and wild populations have retreated to the Qionglaishan, Minshan, Qinling, Daxiangling, and Liangshan mountains. These five mountain ranges have become their last refuge. Moreover, habitat fragmentation is seriously threatening the survival of giant pandas in the wild. Wild giant pandas are divided into 33 isolated populations, and some tiny populations are at high risk of extinction. After devoting major efforts to protect pandas, the International Union for Conservation of Nature downlisted the giant panda from endangered to vulnerable in 2016. In the summer of 2021, Chinese officials said that pandas are no longer endangered. President Xi has also demonstrated his intention to keep strengthening China’s panda protection efforts.
According to the fourth national giant panda survey, there are 1,864 wild giant pandas in the country, 1,387 of which are located in Sichuan (548 out of this 1,387 are captive). This park has an area of 27,134 square kilometers, and spans over three provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi, with about 74% of the area in Southwest China’s Sichuan province alone. Aside from the giant pandas, the park is also home to other highly protected animals, including the snub-nosed monkey.
The work of the first five national parks has been steadily advanced, and progress has also been made in the construction of the Giant Panda National Park. A critical measure of the park concerns its management, which will involve unification. The Giant Panda National Park integrates the original 69 nature reserves in the area. In the past, these nature reserves belonged to 3 provinces and 10 municipalities, and more than 30 counties were managing them. Now, all of the reserves will be managed by the Giant Panda National Park Administration. This should lead to improved implementation of key protections for core areas of the park and better overall coordination of policies.
In an interview with a reporter from the Beijing News, Zhang Shaojun, the full-time deputy director of the Sichuan Provincial Administration of Giant Panda National Park, said that even when the pilot work of the Giant Panda National Park System was fully launched, the Sichuan Provincial Party Committee and the provincial government focused on establishing unified management and legal management system. The Sichuan Provincial Administration Bureau of Giant Panda National Park and 7 cities (prefecture) administrative sub-bureaus such as Chengdu and Ya’an were established. In addition, 20 management stations formed a three-level “provincial bureau- branch-grassroots management station” system. Zhang said “setting up the park and building this unified and integrated management system aims to combine and upgrade all conservation efforts in the park, and this will completely address the unfavorable situation of confusion and inefficiency.”
The Sichuan area of Giant Panda National Park has restored habitat vegetation and built 84,000 mu (56,000,028 square meters) of giant panda corridors. The park conducts ecological impact assessments, consults experts on major projects relevant to the park, and implements the strictest protections. Breeding, planting, felling, and grazing are prohibited in the national park, as well as construction of new buildings and tourism development. The population of giant pandas is now linked together. In 2021, about 200,000 people in Sichuan Giant Panda National Park carried out normalized patrol monitoring and collecting. They returned more than 1 million pieces of infrared camera monitoring information, and the annual encounter of giant pandas in wild monitoring increased from 135 to 178 pandas.
In terms of strengthening the construction of the park, at present, the Sichuan Forestry and Grass Bureau is openly soliciting opinions from the public on related issues. These include institutional and mechanical construction, natural resource management, monitoring and patrolling systems, consolidating grassroots foundations, and coordinating regional development. It involves encouraging the conversion of commercial forests in the Giant Panda National Park into public welfare forests, building a first-class patrol team, and supporting the priority to motivate the local residents of the Giant Panda National Park community to engage in ecological management and public welfare work. Much progress has been made as construction of the park has gone underway, and this progress has shown that the establishment of the park, a first-ever national park dedicated to the conservation of pandas and their natural habitat, has encouraged active participation from various groups and institutions, and fostered public awareness that will contribute to the protection of wildlife.
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