China’s pandas at risk after earthquake
Nearly all of China’s endangered pandas are in jeopardy after the earthquake last month devastated the remote mountain corner that is their last remaining habitat.
Already boxed into these steep and thickly forested hillsides by the advance of man, its numbers limited by a slow rate of reproduction and with its food supply threatened by the scarcity of its favourite arrow bamboo, the panda is now facing its most severe crisis in decades.
Chinese officials, usually reluctant to reveal the real extent of a crisis, have announced that the last 1,590 pandas living in the wild face a very uncertain future after the earthquake.
Yan Xun, an official at the state’s forestry administration, said: “Their living environment is completely de- stroyed. Massive landslides and large scale damage to forests triggered by last month’s earthquake are threatening the existence of wild pandas.”
The fate of the 1,400 pandas living in the quake-hit regions — about 88 per cent of the total — remains unknown and a source of growing anxiety. The tremor damaged 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres), or 83 per cent of China’s total panda habitat.
Mr. Yan said: “Caves and tree hollows where giant pandas live may be damaged, water in the habitat is polluted, and some of the bamboo is buried or smashed.” He said it was almost certain that the earthquake had claimed more pandas among its victims.
“There must have been wild pandas crushed to death during the quake and in the aftershocks. But we do not have the number.”
It was still far too dangerous for researchers to venture into these remote mountain areas to try to assess the ravages.