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Panda Reserves Applauded by WWF
Efforts to protect pandas by environmentalists and officials in Shaanxi Province were yesterday honoured by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - the largest international conservation organization.

Shaanxi, an inland province in Northwest China, was handed the prestigious "Gift to the Earth" certificate in Xi'an, its capital, yesterday on World Earth Day.

WWF applauded the move by the local government to nearly double the protected areas for giant pandas in the Qinling Mountain range last year.

Jim Harkness, chief representative of WWF's China Project, spoke highly of the five newly created panda reserves and five panda "corridors" in the areas.

Protected areas for giant pandas have been enlarged to 150,000 hectares after efforts by the provincial government, Harkness said.

He said the achievement in Shaanxi showed the determination of the Chinese Government to protect nature and the value of creativity in conservation.

Combining the construction of panda "corridors" with natural forestry protection projects provides new ideas and experience for the implementation of State projects.

"WWF considers this great achievement to be the 83rd Gift to the Earth," Harkness said.

The giant panda, classified as an endangered species, is only found in China and the Qinling Mountain range is a major home of the animals.

A national survey found approximately 1,000 wild pandas in an estimated distribution area of around 13,000 square kilometres.

The Qinling Mountain range in Shaanxi Province is the northernmost distribution area for the giant panda and is one of the areas with the densest panda population.

Shaanxi is expected to create another seven protected areas for giant pandas next year, which will add 370,000 hectares of protected areas for the animals in Qinling Mountain range.

(China Daily April 23, 2003)

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