Pandas in the wild are being saved at the expense of other animals

The leopard, snow leopard, wolf and dhole (also known as the Asian wild dog) have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas in China that were created specifically for the conservation of the giant panda, according to a study published this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The conservation of the giant panda is an iconic conservation success story. The species moved from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List following the creation of the first giant panda reserves in China in the 1960s. However, whether these conservation measures have also been beneficial for biodiversity more broadly in the reserves is unclear.

Sheng Li and colleagues analysed data on the presence or absence of four large carnivore species in 73 protected areas in China, including 66 giant panda nature reserves. They compared historical baseline survey data with contemporary camera-trap surveys (conducted from 2008–2018) to show that all four species have been lost from a substantial proportion of these reserves since the reserves were first established 50–60 years ago. Leopards (Panthera pardus) have disappeared from 81% of reserves, snow leopards (P. uncia) from 38%, wolves (Canis lupus) from 77% and dholes (Cuon alpinus) from 95%.

Factors such as logging, poaching and disease are all thought to have contributed to these losses. The authors argue that a broader conservation strategy is required to protect more of the regions’ biodiversity.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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