By Jin Xin, People's Daily
Through collaborative legislation, southwest China's Sichuan province and the northwestern Chinese provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu recently made joint commitments to multiple matters, in an effort to unify criteria and standards for promoting construction of the country's Giant Panda National Park, which spans the three provinces.
China's Giant Panda National Park, with a total area of about 22,000 square kilometers, was officially set up in October 2021. Before the establishment of the national park, relevant regions protected wildlife, giant pandas in particular, by designating scattered nature reserves and protected areas.
A good number of infrared cameras have been installed across the Giant Panda National Park, facilitating wildlife conservation efforts by recording wild animal activities.
For instance, an infrared camera caught on film activities of a wild giant panda in Tangjiahe National Nature Reserve, a part of the Giant Panda National Park, in Qingchuan county, Guangyuan city, Sichuan province. As the video footage shows, the giant panda first scratched its belly with one of its front paws, then slowly rolled over and got up off the ground, and turned its round and chubby head to glance around.
In a giant panda Fertilization and Reintroduction Base in Daxiangling Nature Reserve that straddles the border between Yingjing county and Hanyuan county in Ya'an city, Sichuan province, few signs of human activity can be seen beyond a few buildings for scientific research and management and a metal fence enclosing a zone where giant pandas can gradually adapt to the wild after rewilding training.
"This rewilding zone covers an area of about 200 hectares. It has almost no difference from the natural habitats of giant pandas except necessary protections. After receiving the initial rewilding training, giant pandas learn to adapt to the wild here," said Song Xinqiang, a ranger at the base, pointing to a forested area.
"Only by returning giant pandas to nature can we truly protect them," said Gong Xiaoyan, director of the working committee on environment and resource protection under the Standing Committee of the Shaanxi Provincial People's Congress.
Inhabits of giant pandas in the Daxiangling Nature Reserve used to be rather fragmented, due to severe vegetation damage along the No. 108 national highway, which cut through the mountain area of the nature reserve, as well as long-term impacts of human activities, such as bamboo shoot digging and livestock grazing.
By setting up quadrats to monitor staple bamboo regeneration, biodiversity, and other factors of the local ecosystem, the administration of the Giant Panda National Park has actively carried out habitat restoration in ecological corridors, and strengthened protection and management of the ecological corridors.
In addition to constructing ecological corridors and restoring habitats, the administration has also made efforts to enhance connectivity between isolated patches of habitat to strengthen the protection of wild giant pandas.
"During a patrol inspection in the national park's core protected area in May this year, we found traces of rare wild animal species like takin, golden snub-nosed monkeys and tufted deer, as well as rare orchid plants like Calanthe discolor and Cypripedium calceolus. The protected area has a large variety of animal and plant species and a sound ecological environment," said a member of the national park's patrol team.
The endeavor to establish the Giant Panda National Park goes beyond the mere protection of giant pandas. It represents China's pioneering effort to safeguard biodiversity with giant pandas as an umbrella species.
If protecting giant pandas is likened to holding up an "umbrella" in nature, numerous rare animals and plants can gain better shelter under the "umbrella" of the Giant Panda National Park. Surveys showed that since 2020, the number of wild vertebrate species in the Shaanxi section of the park have increased from 258 to 342.
Relevant authorities in the country have also made provisions on protecting the overall ecological system of the Giant Panda National Park through legislation. According to the provisions, the main protected objects in the park include giant pandas and their habitats, as well as other sympatric wildlife; natural ecosystems like forests, grasslands, wetlands, rivers and glaciers; unique natural landscapes, geology, landforms, as well as historical and cultural sites.
establishment of the Giant Panda National Park has also brought about gratifying changes to local villages. In Longcanggou township, which is located near the entrance of the Yingjing county area of the Giant Panda National Park, local farmers used to rely heavily on resources in mountains for their livelihood. That's why unsustainable practices like logging and excessive bamboo shoot digging that damaged giant panda habitats were once common in the locality.
After the Giant Panda National Park was set up, Longcanggou township has successfully undergone a green transformation by developing tourism featuring giant pandas. As a result, environmentally destructive behaviors have virtually disappeared.
In Fazhan village of Longcanggou township, a multitude of B&B hotels are adorned with captivating giant panda elements.
Today, an increasing number of regions within the Giant Panda National Park have implemented industrial policies aligned with the park's conservation objectives. By providing guidance and supporting local communities near the park in the development of green industries, such as ecotourism, ecosystem-based experiences and featured agricultural products, relevant regions have achieved harmonious coexistence between man and nature.