Panda Project to Bear Positive Results

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Tuesday officially launched a project intensifying the protection of giant pandas in the Qinling Mountains -- the bears' most northerly habitat.

WWF has pledged 1.15 million yuan (US$138,554) for the conservation, a planned survey of the distribution of the wild species of giant pandas and co-operation between different parties involved in the project.

It will not only bring more attention and support to the Qinling panda population -- the highest density of the bears in northern China -- but seek new co-operation with non-traditional conservation institutions.

James Harkness, WWF's chief representative responsible for China's programme, said these included economic and social bodies in the region.

Harkness said the project will help provide experiences and lessons for balancing economic development and the use of resources during China's current "Go West'' campaign.

The giant panda, the national treasure of China, is a symbol of the environmental movement worldwide.

It represents all the major challenges facing wildlife conservation: habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; poaching; and environmental conflicts caused by unsustainable economic development and conservation needs.

WWF is expected to co-operate with the traditional conservation agencies in the three-year project to promote the creation of more panda reserves and explore ways to link them to new forests being developed for ecological reasons under China's natural forest protection programme.

One of the project's most important goals is to create an ecological corridor for giant pandas as a solution for stopping the fragmentation of the animal's habitats and allowing the species' natural genetic exchanges.

Meanwhile, the project will seek co-operation with non-traditional conservation bodies, such as tourism enterprises, to reduce the negative impacts of development on natural resources and to sustain the biodiversity conservation in the Qinling Mountains.

"Conservation is a social cause which needs the participation of government agencies, and economic and social groups,'' Harkness said.

He added the participation of social forces has been active in recent years as public awareness of environmental protection grows.

WWF hopes to explore ways to involve economic groups and markets in the Qinling Project on the basis of co-operating with government and social agencies.

( China Daily March 12, 2002)

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