Wild Pandas Are Threatened
Let’s talk plainly. Nearly all world scientists agree that our global climate is warming rapidly because of human activity. As we put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we experience:
- higher air and ocean temperatures,
- stronger storms,
- shifting areas of rain and drought,
- widespread melting of snow and ice,
- rising sea levels,
- big changes in natural systems and
- other adverse global and regional impacts.
Worse yet, greenhouse gas emissions have a lag effect. If we reduce them now, it will still take many years for the atmosphere to clear. Meanwhile, the earth will continue to get warmer for a long time before balance is restored.
This problem directly threatens giant pandas in the wild. China’s most recent survey (2015) suggests that there are less than 1900 wild giant pandas in the world. These giant pandas like cool weather. They live in the mountains of China at from 2500 meters to about 3000 meters.
China has made a major effort to save wild pandas from extinction by establishing and enlarging nature reserves, but they are still very vulnerable to threats from habitat loss, human intrusion and climate change.
As the earth warms and our climate changes, wild pandas will be forced up higher in the mountains. Their main food, bamboo, may not follow them. The mountains may also become like islands, with wild pandas separated from one another so that their genetic diversity worsens. This will endanger wild pandas even more.
Our Chinese colleagues at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding asked us to help them understand the impact of climate change on the giant panda and develop new techniques to reintroduce captive-born panda cubs into protected nature reserves. We agreed to help.
We have brought important scientific resources to bear on this challenge. Together, we will study giant pandas in the wild more closely so we can find new ways to protect them. We will also add to their numbers and strengthen their genetic diversity through a successful reintroduction program.
This is important work, but only part of the battle. We still need meaningful global action to reduce greenhouse gases if we are to save wild pandas and their habitat for future generations.