Sunday, 1 October 2017

Panda's habitat 'shrinking and becoming more fragmented'

By Helen BriggsBBC News
25 September 2017

Despite signs that numbers of giant pandas are rising, suitable habitat has shrunk, according to satellite data.

The forests where the panda lives are in worse shape than in 1988, when it was first listed as endangered, scientists say.

Last year, the giant panda was downgraded from endangered to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Habitat loss is the most serious threat to the animal, which is seen as an icon of global extinction efforts.

"What's new in this study is our ability to assess the status of the giant panda by using satellite imagery and then use that information to come up with recommendations of how better to manage this iconic threatened species," said Prof Stuart Pimm, of Duke University, North Carolina, US, who is a researcher on the study.

The news last year that the giant panda had been taken off the endangered list made headlines around the world.

The decision was made because numbers of wild pandas had risen in surveys. However, with only around 1,800 left in the wild, establishing new reserves and extending existing ones is crucial for the animal's survival.

"I think we now understand we've got to keep an eye on the habitats where pandas live," said Prof Pimm.

"But it also points to the need to try and re-connect isolated panda habitats by building what we call biological corridors."

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