China's endangered giant panda is expanding habitat in bamboo
forests stretching across two western provinces, recent discovery
of its dung indicates.
Forestry researchers have identified panda's droppings in areas
beyond its known habitat, in Baishuijiang Nature Reserve, a
220,000-hectare area bordering the northwestern Gansu Province and
the southwestern Sichuan Province.
"This indicates an expansion of the giant panda's habitat -- and
probably of its population, too," says Huang Huali, vice director
of the Baishuijiang Nature Reserve Administration.
The latest national census on giant pandas, which lasted from
1999 to 2001, counted 103 pandas in Baishuijiang, the largest of
China's 55 giant panda reserves.
Huang says the reserve has proven an ideal home for the cuddly
bears with its good ecosystems and rich resources of arrow bamboo
-- giant panda's favorite food.
To ensure ample food supply for the pandas, forestry experts
have identified more than 20 bamboo-eating insects and curbed the
plague of insect pests since 2002, said Huang.
"Our bamboo forests have been effectively restored after the
massive flowering and die-off in the 1980s," he said.
Flowering bamboos in the mid 1980s triggered a severe food
shortage for the critically-endangered giant pandas and nearly the
whole nation made donations to help save the bears.
Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered species.
Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show around 1,590
panda live in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Sichuan. More
than 210 pandas are kept in captivity.
Links: Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries -- Wolong, Mt.
Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains
(Xinhua News Agency July 28, 2007)