Pandas seriously affected by Sichuan earthquake

Researchers have found that Pandas have been pushed closer to extinction by the effects of last year’s Sichuan earthquake. The quake, which killed 69,000 people and left 4.3m homeless, also devastated the panda’s ecosystems.

Weihua Xu, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, found that more than 23% of the pandas’ habitat in the area he studied had been destroyed, with much of the rest fragmented or damaged.

“We estimate that above 60% of the wild giant panda population was affected … by the earthquake,” said Xu.“The giant panda population inhabiting this region could already be as low as 35 individuals. This extra isolation increases their risk of extinction in the wild, due in part to a higher likelihood of inbreeding,” he said.

Diane Walkington, head of species at WWF, said the organisation was working with the Chinese government to reduce the damage. “About 80% of the pandas’ habitat was affected to varying degrees. In three key nature reserves around 35% of the vegetation was destroyed,” she said.

Only 1,000-2,000 pandas remain in the wild.

The Times

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