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PANDA - why is this animal approaching extiction?
GENERAL INFORMATION ON PANDAS
Species: Ailuropoda melanoleuka (black and white cat-footed animal)
In Chinese pandas are called "Daxiongmao", which means large bear cat. Panda is a symbol of peace.
Pandas are one of the most popular creatures worldwide, they are regarded as lovable and charismatic. They are considered as an endangered species. Despite the fact that they have teeth of a carnivore (incisors), they are omnivores, must mostly eat bamboo. Meat isn't included in their diet but if given the chance they will take it (i have seen it in the Animal Planet and caught my interest). They have powerful muscles in the head and jaw, which allows them to crush bamboo.
Adult pandas measure from 1.60 to 1.80 m (length). An adult male weighs between 80 to 125 kg, whereas females weigh 10-20% less. Unlike bears, it doesn't hibernate and can only walk using all fore and hind limbs. They have a big head. Pandas aren't nocturnal animals, but they have narrow pupils wich allows them to see at night when they eat bamboo.
In average a panda can live untill the age of 21. Females become sexually mature when they reach the age of 7, whereas the males at the age of 8. A female panda becomes sexually mature only once a year. Thus she can raise 14 cubs (21 years in total - reaching sexually maturity 7 years old = 14 years of sexual maturity) in her life time. Sometimes a female can bear 2 cubs at a time, but usually she would only care for one of them, therefore the other cub will not survive.
Wild pandas can only be found in China, in forests where bamboo shoots and trees are abundant. Having pandas in these regions, help to keep the growth of bamboo relatively in stable rates, if their habitat isn't disturbed. Wei and Hu (two chinese folks observing pandas) have concluded that the panda population at Wolong eat only half ot the eatable bamboo shoots and leaves. Which means that that region could sustain double the number of pandas now. However some parts of the forest has been cleared (deforestation), and without having any choice they remain in their area and avoid to disperse. Unfortunately nowadays they can only be found in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
CLOSE TO EXTICTION
These black and white Chinese bears are close to extiction, for several reasons, but originally was thought that it was mainly from poaching. Ofcourse such activity is illegal. All evidence and information in this essay where mostly used from an article called "the implications of poaching for panda conservation". These amazing creatures are hunted down for their skins, which in turn poses a great threat for their future. If tracted all skins are confiscated. It is also sad to include that not long ago hunters also took the skulls of these animals, or if captured alive were used for "imperial hunting".
Their numbers in the wild are limited. The model used in the article states that it "takes a total wild population of 1216 individuals divided among 16 'patches' " in the years 1987-1988. Each "patch" is regarded as "being completely independent, with no dispersal and density-dependance". In other words pandas which spend their time alone in their own habitat, the distances between them vary though. After further study, the model states that there are 3 types of poaching :
In theory and practice, hunting down female pandas rather than male, poses a much greater problem in their population. Less females means less offspring will survive in the sense that they will not survive without their mothers and less offspring will be born in the next reproduction year. Hence "lower average population size and higher percentage of extiction"! Anyhow both sexes at any age is hunted down. During the years 1987-1998 in total 52 giant pandas have been killed!!! I noticed in a statistics table included in the article, that the mortality rate for a 1-year-old panda is 40% for both sexes. This means that the chances of this infant to survive untill sexual maturity are very low. But as it grows and learns from its mother how to survive in the wild, it stands more chances to survive. After collecting data about poaching, we can say that this isnt the main reason which leads pandas to extiction.. since the number of pandas hunted down is constant, and anyway the numbers of pandas will continue to fall dramatically.. As stated in the article "under all poaching scenarios, the total population does not go extinct, but the population declines and the average percentage extiction increases, compared to population with poaching". This statement only refers if the hunters do not choose their victim. I mean when both sexes have the same chances of being killed. But if the hunter prefers to hunt just females, then extiction will occur sooner than expected for the whole population of pandas, all 16 'patches'... Poaching varies widely, and depends upon several factors.
Some pandas have been captured in order to try and save the species, but in this case little can be done, since this is a wild animal and reproduction occuring is not always effective and actions must be done. Almost 240 pandas have settled in zoos for breeding. After having watched a documentary about pandas in the Animal Planet i was suprised when it said that female pandas are fertile only for a few hours on that particular day of the year. And if the male isnt successful in finding the female in time, then no cubs will be born at that year. Personally i believe that this is the main reason pandas are becoming extict.
The article also mentions that 2 catastrophies have taken place in the years 1970 and 1983-1987, in result there were 279 lives of wild pandas taken away.. 279 numbers of pandas is a considerable amount, and it will take a long time to restore them, since this species reproduces at a very slow rate. Fortunately this phenomenon isn't frequent (every 40 years or so), so in a way it can be disregarded as being a threat for pandas survival.
In conclusion, pandas are coming to extiction due to their low fertility rate. But nevertheless poaching should be banned completely, and people should be more informed and aware in the fact that sooner or later pandas will be gone. Ofcourse this means that we must act NOW. Keep a closer eye on them, help during breeding (even if inner fertilisation is a must). This requires a large amount of money in order to be successful, and a way of doing this is by attracting more people to the reserves and zoos. Deforastation must be limited. Pandas are adorable and innocent creatures, they deserve a place to live in, plenty of bamboo. Why should this species fade away? We have the power to stop this from happening. Why wait until its too late?...
: . Biological
Conservation 111: 125–136.
. Biological Conservation 111: 125–136.
|Notes (if any) by Peter Kabai:|