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PUBLISHED: Mar 1, 2015 12:52pm

China’s wild giant panda population up almost 17% over a decade

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Source: AFP Source:
AFP

Fu-Wan, one of two giant pandas on loan from China, sits inside the Giant Panda Complex enclosure at the National Zoo in Kuala Lumpur on June 25, 2014. Fu-Wan and Feng-Yi, the two giant pandas on loan from China to mark the 40th anniversary of Malaysia-China diplomatic relations, were renamed Xing-xing and Liang-liang respectively on their first public appearance. — AFP pic

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BEIJING, March 1, 2015:

China’s population of wild giant pandas jumped nearly 17% over a decade — state media reported, citing an official survey — with conservation measures credited as being behind the increase.

The investigation by the State Forestry Administration (SFA) found that by the end of 2013 China had 1,864 giant pandas alive in the wild, marking an increase of 268 individuals, or 16.8%, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

The figures compared with a previous survey carried out in 2003, Xinhua said.

The SFA said conservation efforts led to the increase, according to Xinhua.

Besides population, panda habitat also increased 11.8% to 2.58 million hectares compared with the 2003 survey, Xinhua said.

China had 375 giant pandas in captivity at the end of 2013, the report said, with 166 males and 209 females.

The total figure marked a gain of 211, or 128.7%, compared with 2003, Xinhua said, citing SFC figures.

The report also said that as of June last year there were 42 pandas, including adults and cubs, overseas in 12 countries.

China has cultivated a global fascination with pandas into its diplomacy by sending the animals to overseas zoos where they have proven a wildly popular draw.

Conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomed the increase in the giant panda numbers.

“The rise in the population of wild giant pandas is a victory for conservation and definitely one to celebrate,” Ginette Hemley, WWF senior vice president of wildlife conservation, said in a release.

“This increase in the population of wild giant pandas is a testament to the commitment made by the Chinese government for the last 30-plus years to wild panda conservation,” Hemley added.

Pandas, whose natural habitat lies in mountainous southwestern China, have a notoriously low reproductive rate and are under pressure from factors such as habitat loss.

Underscoring continuing worries, however, the SFC survey showed that 223 of the wild giant pandas, or 12% of the population, were classified as high risk, Xinhua said.

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