Pandas Extinct Within Three Generations?

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August 18, 2009—A WWF spokesperson says that, unless development around giant panda habitat in China is controlled, the panda could become extinct within two or three generations.

© 2009 National Geographic (AP)

Unedited Transcript

A spokesperson for WWF China says the panda could be extinct in 2 to 3 generations, if increased development around the pandas natural habitat is not controlled.

Fan Zhiyong, Species Program Director for WWF in Beijing voiced concerns that housing and development for humans was encroaching on the natural feeding and breeding grounds of wild Pandas and may at some point lead to their extinction.

SOUNDBITE (Mandarin) Fan Zhiyong, Species Program Director, WWF, Beijing: "We shouldn't say 'don't let development happen'. We are just asking if, in the process of developing these areas should we, can we, stop and think that as a Chinese national treasure and a globally protected species, can we plan with them in mind? Can our development plans include them in the considerations? I think that is quite reasonable."

China has run a successful panda breeding program and many pandas have been born in breeding centers set up by the government.

But outside the centers, the spaces that were adequate for an estimated 1,000 wild Pandas 30 years ago are now not big enough for the current estimated 1,600 pandas living in the wild.

The development has also had an effect on mating.

Roads and water projects are fragmenting the pandas habitat into little patches. This is cutting pandas off from nearby areas where they might find a suitable mate and food.

Pandas need to travel to other areas find mates. This prevents inbreeding and increases genetic diversity. Inbreeding reduces resistance to disease, and lowers reproductive success.

SOUNDBITE (Mandarin) Fan Zhiyong, Species Program Director, WWF, Beijing "If these animals are all raised by people they are no longer a wild species. From a scientific and technical standpoint artificial insemination and the successful use of frozen sperm samples will have a beneficial effect on helping the pandas. But if at some point in the future the only way to see the survival of the panda as a species is to rely on artificial insemination, we will know the extinction of this species is not far off."

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