By Zhang Zejun

Pandas are unquestionably one of the most adorable animals among millions of species living on the Earth. They have a round face, a body in black and white, black eye patches and a pair of black ears. Their chubby and fluffy body make them extremely “adorkable.”

Pandas are national treasures of China. Over recent years, China has witnessed steady expansion of the panda population, improved environment of the animal’s habitats, and constant progress in panda protection and research. It mirrors the country’s achievements in ecological progress and biodiversity conservation.

The loveliness of pandas is a result of the Earth’s evolution of billions of years. It carries the code of biological evolution and reflects the progress of panda protection, propagation and ecological studies.

Pandas have a round face because their cheekbones are wide, which makes the nose look shorter. The black-and-white body is also one of the adorable features of pandas. This “colorway” helps pandas keep warm on mountains and in forests and is also the animal’s camouflage. However, not all pandas are black and white. Currently, a rescued brown and white panda named Qi Zai is living in the Qinling research center of giant panda breeding in northwest China’s Shaanxi province. Since 1985, giant pandas with brown fur have been spotted six times in the Qinling Mountains.

Compared with their acute sense of smell and strong hearing capacity, pandas’ visual acuity is weak. They have a myopia of about 800 degrees. However, in bamboo groves, they don’t need a strong visual ability.

Pandas are pigeon-toed. Their wobbly walks make them very cute. Such slow movement helps them save strength. Besides, pandas can swim and climb trees, and have flexible joints that enable them to make unexpected moves.

Fossils of the ancestral panda Ailurarctos lufengensis, the oldest panda found so far, were discovered in Lufeng, southwest China’s Yunnan province. The ancestral panda lived in the late Miocene about 8 million years ago, and was a rare species native to China.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese government has never ceased its protection of pandas. It has set up four giant panda nature reserves in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Besides, biological studies of pandas gradually developed in China. The country has been one of the leaders in the world in terms of panda research since 1990s thanks to the joint efforts of Chinese scientists.

To get a clear picture of the panda population is the foundation and premise of science-based panda protection. Since 1974, China has conducted four panda censuses. According to the latest census, the population and the area of panda habitats both grew more than 10 percent.

As of the end of 2013, the population of giant pandas living in the wild exceeded 1,800, and that population was divided in different locations, among which giant pandas in some locations had a population less than 30, which made it extremely difficult to maintain the population with on-site protection.

Therefore, China initiated a wilderness training program for giant pandas, which aims at releasing artificially bred pandas to expand endangered panda populations in the wild. So far, more than 10 captive pandas have been released through this creative protection method.

In October 2021, China announced to build the first batch of national parks, including one for giant pandas. The giant panda national park covers an area of about 2.2 million hectares and 60 percent of panda habitats, where more than 70 percent of wild giant pandas live. The establishment of the giant panda national park marked a new phase of China’s panda protection.

In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature took the species off its endangered list and downgraded the conservation status of giant pandas to “vulnerable.” It reflected the remarkable achievements made by China in the protection of giant pandas and demonstrated the country’s sense of responsibility as a major country in natural conservation. Under the joint efforts of all sectors of the society, the Chinese people are writing a splendid chapter of panda protection and research, setting a good example for global wildlife conservation.


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