The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries in China are among 18 places named as new World Heritage sites last week by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The designation is bestowed annually on a selection of natural landmarks and cultural sites that UNESCO considers to have outstanding universal value. The 18 new sites bring the World Heritage list to 830 properties in 138 countries.
The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries include nine parks and seven nature reserves that span 2,285,000 acres (924,500 hectares) in China's Qionglai and Jiajin mountains. The forested region is home to 30 percent of the world's panda species, along with a number of other at-risk creatures. In addition to giant pandas (above), the newly protected area hosts red pandas, snow leopards, and an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 plant species native to the mountains.
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Photograph courtesy IUCN/David Sheppard