Endangered Species

The Giant Panda

The Panda's Chinese name, Da Xiong Mao, means "Great Bear Cat."

What is the problem? No one in the North America had ever seen a giant panda before the first one arrived at a zoo in 1936. One look at that large furry face and those sad eyes and people just fell in love.

In the 1960s, the environmental movement used the panda as a symbol for international wildlife conservation. But even its fame has not kept it from near extinction. Once widespread in China, today there are only around 700 - 1,000 giant pandas still alive in the wild. But even these remaining pandas, in bamboo forests in western China, are in danger of being wiped out by:

  • Habitat Loss - Humans are getting on panda's turf.
  • Low Reproductivity - It takes a long time to make a baby panda (cub).
  • Poaching - Humans are illegally hunting pandas.

Habitat Loss: Pandas love cold, damp mountain forests where bamboo thrives. Why? Because bamboo is their favorite food. Bamboo's a tricky plant. Depending on the species, it can take 10 - 100 years to flower and die. After the plant flowers and drops its seeds, it takes a year to sprout and grow tall again. But it can take up to 20 years before it can support a panda population! Meanwhile the pandas must move to new areas in search of food. In the past, this wasn't a problem, but today, about one billion people live in China. Many farm the lower slopes of the pandas' mountain home. Pandas' habitat is now only half the size it was 15 years ago. Unless the present habitat is expanded, pandas are in serious trouble.

Low Reproductivity: Pandas are very picky about choosing mates. This is a problem since there are so few of them to begin with and they live in isolated places. Even when pandas find the perfect mate, they are slow to reproduce. While an adult female panda may get pregnant several times a year, in a two year period, only one of her cubs will survive. This makes it hard for the panda to rebound from its low numbers and avoid extinction.

Poaching: Giant panda are often the target of illegal hunting or poaching as their dense fur carries a high price in illegal markets in the Far East. ("Anyone for a panda fur coat?" "No way!")

Every zoo wants a panda, but is that good? Yes and no.

Yes. Lending giant pandas to zoos are great for the zoo-going public and important source of revenue for Chinese captive panda breeding programs (that try to mate captive pandas so that they will produce cubs). Some folks believe that if people can see pandas in zoos, they are more likely to support international efforts to help them survive in the wild.

No. Wild pandas need to be caught (and taken out of the wild) for captive breeding programs and zoo loans. Some people believe that exchanging wild pandas for money is not good and further reduces the wild panda population. Even though some of the money goes to pay for captive panda breeding programs, they still don't like the idea.

It's The Law!

In 1984, the Giant Panda was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. This protection prohibits Giant Pandas from being imported into the United States except under certain conditions.

The Giant Panda is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty aimed at controlling illegal trade in endangered animal and plant species.

What You Can Do To Help!

The giant panda's problems make it a classic endangered species. It will not survive human impact without human assistance. We must take strong measures to protect not only this animal but every species and the habitat they depend upon. So get on it!

1. Write to President Obama and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior expressing your concern about the fate of pandas and your desire that they be saved.

Write The President at:

President Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

Email The President:

[email protected]

Write The Secretary at:

Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Email The Secretary:

click here

2. Write your United States Senator and Congressional Representative. Tell them how important pandas are to you and ask them to support protection for the Giant Panda and their habitat and to keep other environmental laws strong. 

3. Check out these websites and find out what these organizations are doing to help save the Giant Panda. Find out what you can do to work with them!

CyberPanda - is dedicated to locating panda resources (news, photos and resource sites) on the Net and linking to them to the CyberPanda website.

Write them at:

2501 M Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20037

Call them at:

(800) 429-5660
(202) 429-5660
(202) 887-0192 Fax

(All Photos: Courtesy Animal Pictures Archive)

World Wildlife Fund is a great source of information about projects that are protecting all kinds of endangered wildlife... in wetlands as well as the rainforests of Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

 Write them at:

World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037

Call them at:

(202) 293-4800
(202) 293-9211 Fax

Visit their web site:

Defenders of Wildlife

Defenders of Wildlife - is dedicated to the protection of all indigenous wild animals and plants in their natural communities. Offers free information on biodiversity and threatened and endangered animals. They also hold regular contests.

Write them at:

Defenders of Wildlife
1130 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Call them at:

(800) 385-9712

Visit their web site at:

Email them at:

[email protected]


Help other Endangered Species

Check out other Environmental Organizations


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last updated August 15, 2009
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