Giant Pandas: Biology and Conservation

Giant Pandas: Biology and Conservation

Giant Pandas: Biology and Conservation

Giant Pandas: Biology and Conservation


The much-loved giant panda, a secretive denizen of the dense bamboo forests of western China, has become an icon worldwide of progress in conservation and research. This volume, written by an international team of scientists and conservationists including Chinese researchers whose work has not been available in English, tells the promising story of how the giant panda returned from the brink of extinction. The most important sourcebook on giant pandas to date, it is the first book since 1985 to present current panda research and the first to place the species in its biological, ecological, and political contexts. More than a progress report on a highly endangered species, Giant Pandas: Biology and Conservation details the combination of scientific understanding, local commitment, and government involvement that has been brought into play and asks what more needs to be done to ensure the panda's survival.

The book is divided into four parts--Evolutionary History of the Giant Panda, Studies of Giant Panda Biology, Pandas and Their Habitats, and Giant Panda Conservation. It combines the latest findings from the field and the laboratory together with panel and workshop summaries from a recent international conference. Taken together, the chapters highlight how international cooperation has led to better management in the wild and in captivity. The volume also shows how concepts such as buffer zones, links between forest fragments, multiple-use areas, and cooperation with local people who have a stake in the resources--highly relevant concepts for conservation problems around the world--have been key to the panda's survival.


When, in 1978, Hu Jinchu and his colleagues erected a hut and several tents in the forests of the Qionglai Mountains in Wolong Natural Reserve to study giant pandas, it was the beginning of an intensive effort to save a species that was much adored but little known. I was privileged to become a member of the Chinese research team on behalf of World Wildlife Fund. On May 15, 1980, I first examined and measured panda droppings and feeding sites. Four and one-half years later, in January 1985, I left the project. We had by then collected a baseline of information about the life of pandas. To this, Pan Wenshi and his team added superbly during a thirteen-year study at another research site located in the Qinling Mountains. Natural history remains the cornerstone of knowledge about species and their habitat, providing information, defining problems, and suggesting solutions on which realistic conservation plans depend. However, given the economic, social, and political pressures in today’s world, knowledge alone will not lead to conservation. Between 1975 and 1989, while these studies were in progress, the panda lost half of its habitat in Sichuan Province to logging and agriculture. The survivors remain in small, fragmented populations, isolated in about twenty-four forest patches—a blueprint for extinction.

Conservation requires a vision beyond pandas to include the whole forest ecosystem, human land use, and community development, all within a cultural context. The 1990s have seen a consistent change in that direction. A national conservation plan began to be implemented in 1993. An up-to-date census of pandas was completed. New reserves were established, and they now number forty, encompassing half the panda’s habitat. Reserve staff were trained to patrol and monitor wildlife. The number and survival of captive-born young increased greatly. And in a dramatic policy shift, the government banned logging of old-growth forest and initiated a vast reforestation program to turn steep hillsides from “grain to green.”

Giant Pandas: Biology and Conservation, based on a conference held in 2000, presents a valuable collection of reports that place the species into its biological, ecological, and political context. For the first time in a quarter century, panda research and thought have been summarized, including material until now available only in Chinese. This volume also shows the value of international cooperation—of sharing ideas and techniques—to produce new data and insights leading to better management in both the wild and captivity. I am impressed by the large number of Chinese authors—many of them former . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.