Pandas saved from extinction, but still threatened

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Giant pandas were removed from the list of endangered species in 2016. However, a new study reveals that the natural habitat of these animals is less than 30 years ago, and their population is increasingly fragmented and isolated. The situation of this threatened species appeared to be improving, China invested in the protection of giant pandas, and in 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, changed its status from ‘threatened’ to ‘vulnerable’.

It was published this week in the journal Nature, the research that warns against the commotion caused by this change in the status of giant pandas in the list of species threatened by extinction. The results warn of habitat loss, tourism, and the effects of climate change, which are putting increasing pressure on pandas.

A team of scientists used geospatial technology and remote sensing data to map human effects on the last bamboo forests where these mammals live.

“What my colleagues and I wanted to know was how the panda habitat has changed over the past four decades”, said Stuart L. Pimm, one of the study’s authors, “because the extent and connectivity of a species’ habitat are also factors of great importance to determine its risk of extinction”.

By analyzing satellite images produced from 1976 to present, experts have discovered that the giant panda’s habitat has shrunk and fragmented over the past 40 years.

The research group included researchers Jianguo Liu of Michigan State University and Zhuyan Ouyang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences who studied the geographical distribution of pandas since 2001.

“The most obvious changes since Professor Liu and his colleague Zhiyun Ouyang visited the region inhabited by the pandas for the first time in 2001 were the increase and increase of motorways and other infrastructure works [in that area]”, Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University in the US, said in a press release.

“These were the main causes of habitat fragmentation. By 2013, road density was about three times higher than in 1976”, Pimm added.

The research also found that the remaining population of giant pandas is divided into 30 isolated groups, 18 of which are composed of less than ten animals. This means that there is a high risk for the local extinction of giant pandas.

The study questions the data that led the IUCN to change the status of giant pandas to ‘vulnerable’ species. The animals had been listed as ‘endangered’ for the first time in 1988.

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