Through a combination of physical features that closely resemble a teddy bear, giant pandas attract worldwide attention. Their playful natures, black and white fur, soft round cheeks and body, and their common sitting postures make them endearing to all that see them,
Similar to humans, pandas grasp onto their bamboo and other foods due to the famous “giant panda finger” - a small piece of bone separated from the carpus. numerous prominent governmental agencies or whoever young children, they show great zeal to protect giant pandas. Despite few people having the opportunity to view pandas in the wild, this kind of enthusiastic interest cause giant pandas to be the most photographed among all endangered species. Pandas are thereby seen as the world symbol for animal and plant conservation. This species is treated as the world symbol for all animals, plants, and habitats needing conservation. Yet the biology of this amazing bruin is still a mystery. Tackling of these problems will promote the population management, animal welfare, and conservation.
The lack of a thorough understanding of panda biology, and the fragmented and small population number of wild pandas are threats faced by current conservation efforts. Species and habitat management can not be carried out without systematic and ongoing researches and understanding of the basic information of species. Giant panda pioneers, such as Schaller, Reid, Pan Wenshi and Lv Zhi, have systematically monitored the life history, behavior, mating, foraging, and many more details. Prior to their efforts pandas were relatively unknown to the general public, leaving gaps in basic research were left, which still hinder people from making the most suitable management decisions against giant panda species as yet.
In retrospect the combination of the fore-mentioned problems makes giant panda conservation a difficult task. These beautiful creatures which survived from the enormous pressure imposed by human beings, now rely on human beings to ensure their survival.
If giant pandas need to survive in the form of captivity, significance of this population towards the overall species conservation must be made clear. If we stick to such a goal, species captivity is not bad for wild species, rather than, it is quite good for “strengthening” wild giant pandas, we will find that giant panda captive population is meaningful to conservation for at least 6 aspects.
Few people have the chance to see a panda in the wild, nevertheless the rare animal is the world ambassador for all threatened habitats and diversified species. What happens to giant pandas (or other predators) affects all other various species in their habitat, which is termed—the “umbrella” effect. The conservation of the mountainous habitats where giant pandas roam, also means that other animals is these locations are also protected. These animals include; the golden monkey, takin, sumatran/southern serow, Chinese/yellow muntjac, tufted deer, red panda, golden pheasant, giant salamander, and thousands of others species, including rare plants and invertebrate. Since it is rare to see wild populations which are in a hazardous situation, giant pandas living in zoos and breeding centers play a very important role in public education. Giant pandas conservation is therefore responsible not only for this beautiful creature but thousands of plant and animal species, and is a vivid reminder why continual strenuous efforts are made to protect wildlife and the environment.
For similar reasons, it is necessary to make the public know the hazardous situation wild living beings are facing. Those organizations responsible for conservation and captive giant pandas are responsible for providing visitors with comprehensive knowledge concerning animal anatomy, physiology, ecology and ethology, and their special adaptability to their habitats. Zoos and breeding centers must emphasize the hazardous situation of wild pandas, and clearly point out that captive management is not the substitute of trying to conserve the species and their habitats. tories Current research studies and interesting stories gleamed from those experiences will serve as a model to illustrate the importance of management and conservation of the cutest species in the world.
We have not completely known the situation of wild pandas. Although slash and burn practices have been stopped, forests in China are fragmented and protected wildlife corridors have not been established, while present conservation regions are not optimally managed. Human encroachment into nature due to industrial and economic development result, in the decrease of quantity and quality of animal habitats (Liu et al., 1997). Worst of all, there is a significant lack of reliable data regarding each fragmented giant panda population, including quantity, population statistics, and genetic viability. A population formed based on habitat fragmentation is easily affected by the random events, such as epidemic disease or natural disaster (bamboo flowering). All species facing such unstable futures have no safety insurance. Therefore, ex-situ conservation projects are significant, and provide a guarantee. Zoos and people need to work together to conserve wild pandas and avoid the necessity of such a guarantee.
In comparison to other wild species giant pandas can raise funds of unthinkable amounts as the rent up to USD1 million every year. Giant pandas imply a lot of money for animal conservation, which is not only good for giant pandas, but also good for other species living with giant pandas in the same habitat. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the current situation, promulgates that the USD 1 million funds provided by each zoo in the U.S. raising giant pandas can be used for construction projects, including but not limited to road construction, new construction of ranger station within the conservation area, training of younger generation of Chinese wild biologists and scientists in zoos (see Chapter 22). Zoos or breeding centers increase the public’s connection to giant pandas and propels politicians, entrepreneurs and individuals to invest in them. In turn, their investment will provide guarantee for current conservation and long-term projects.
Ex-situ conservation of giant panda population provides valuable resources for basic and applied biology research. Through studying giant panda populations, various detailed knowledge concerning the giant panda biology, especially the life science, is formed. As mentioned previously more systematic research on the particularity of this species is needed. It is very difficult to conduct research on disease susceptibility, digestive dynamics, or sperm biology of a species living in the remote and thick bamboo forest. In recent years the most exciting developments in giant panda biology lies in the agreement between administrators that the captive population contributes scientific research that will increase the wild giant panda population. This concept is proposed based on the idea that information obtained via research will improve captive population management and strengthen the in-situ conservation of giant pandas. This book, similar to a will, records giant pandas living in a controlled environment which first made the scientific research possible.
Significance for the future
There are siz reasons why giant panda ex-situ conservation remains uncertain, including the benefits of maintaining a population with genetic diversity against an unpredictable future. Considering the concept and methods of applied conservation, there are new discussions about re-introducing giant pandas to the existing or new conservation area has triggered (Mainka, 1997). In the ideal world, the wild individuals captured can be the sources of releasing. However, there is a large possibility that the captive population may be the most optimal resource actually (although we now face huge blank in terms of knowledge, not knowing how to release the captive giant pandas to the wild environment). At last, from the perspective of science, we will never know how the basic research on one species affect another species. For example, if the annual rutting season of the female individual is less than 1% of the whole year, how this population evolves and continues up to now? Perhaps the answer will be helpful for successful breeding of other mammal (human beings included). Therefore, how the biological knowledge obtained from the mysterious giant pandas benefits other living beings is quite a puzzle.