Southwest China's Sichuan Province will set up three more giant panda nature reserves this year, bringing the total to 40, an official from the provincial forestry department said on Friday.
The new reserves will put half the rare animal's habitat and 60 percent of the wild pandas under protection, said Tang Daixu, director of wildlife protection in the department.
Two of the new reserves, named Huangshuihe reserve in Lushan County and Paocaowan reserve in Yingjing County, will begin construction this year, while the other, Bayuelin in Leshan City, is expected to be approved by the central government this year, said Tang.
Sichuan has 1,206 wild pandas, 76 percent of China's total, on 1.77 million hectares of habitat.
Eleven of the 37 existing panda reserves in Sichuan are national reserves.
China set up its first nature reserve for pandas in the 1950s and banned poaching in 1957. In 1962, China put the panda under top state protection.
Giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world with only 1,590 are living in the wild, mostly in Sichuan and neighboring Shaanxi Province.
(Xinhua News Agency April 6, 2007)