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China determines panda’s population using GPS/GIS

That’s the news from State Forestry Administration officials who say increased national efforts at protecting wildlife such as the Giant Panda have seen dramatic increases in the ranks of the endangered species, including more than 500 new pandas born within the past sixteen years.

A latest inventory was conducted by the administration, and found the number of giant panda in the wild has increased from 1,100 in 1988 to more than 1,590 today.

That excludes young giant pandas under 18 months old.

To improve the accuracy of the inventory, high technologies — including GPS and GIS along with specially designed software were used to annotate the exact spots where wild pandas or their footprints, dropping and bamboo stem fragments or other traces were found, Zhuo Rongsheng, director of the Department of Wild Fauna and Flora Conservation at the administration said.

The inventory began in 1999 and was carried out in the endangered bear’s major habitats, including the western provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. It was the third ever conducted in China, with earlier counts carried out in the 1970s and 1980s.

Zhuo attributes the increase of the panda population to the improvement of their habitat and successful research in artificial insemination and conception.

Besides the inventory of the giant panda — which is dubbed a “state treasure” of Chinese people, the administration also carried out a national survey on major wild fauna and flora and wetland resources from the mid-1990s.

The main wildlife habitats and wetlands are under sound conservation in China thanks to the consistent efforts of the government has made, said Zhao Xuemin, the administration’s deputy director.

The establishment of these nature reserves brings 40 per cent of China’s natural wetlands, the main habitats of 300 species of wild fauna and 130 species of wild flora under protection, Zhao said.

Statistics indicate China has established more than 250 wild fauna rescue and breeding bases and 400 breeding or genetic reserves for wild flora, thus protecting the rare and highly endangered species form extinction.

Although great achievements have been made in the conservation project, some species are found exhausted and endangered and in need of rescue, Zhao noted.

Rare wild fauna and flora resources should be regarded as ecological resources instead of economic resources and brought under protection, he stressed.