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Giant pandas: living proof that conservation works

The charismatic giant panda – WWF’s famous symbol – is a conservation icon turned conservation success.

Giant pandas: living proof that conservation works species:

Vulnerable (Around 1860 remain) Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Affected by: Habitat loss and fragmentation , Climate change

The charismatic giant panda is a global conservation icon and the symbol of our organisation. Thanks to decades of successful conservation work, wild panda numbers are starting to recover, but they remain at risk. Human activities continue to be the biggest threats to their survival. An extensive giant panda nature reserve network exists, but one-third of all wild pandas live outside of protected areas in small isolated populations.

Pandas typically lead a solitary life. They're excellent tree climbers, but they spend most of their time feeding. They can eat for 14 hours a day, mainly bamboo, which is 99% of their diet (though they sometimes eat eggs or small animals too).

Giant pandas are living proof that conservation works. And even better, by protecting pandas we’re also helping protect the wider environment where they live, for all the wildlife and the people that depend on it.

Nicola Loweth

"I’ll never forget the day I came face to face with one of the world’s most iconic species - the giant panda - as this charismatic and universally loved species is rarely seen in the wild. As I stood staring into his dark solemn eyes, I was overcome with a sense of tranquility. I also felt  thankful to have shared this unique experience alongside our dedicated field team who work passionately to protect this incredible species."

Nicola Loweth
Regional officer for India and China
Female giant panda in the snow

Where do giant pandas live?

Wild pandas could once have been found throughout eastern and southern China, northern Vietnam and northern Myanmar. Now the pandas range is restricted to just six isolated mountain ranges in Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan Provinces in south-central China.

Pandas live mainly in deciduous broadleaf, mixed conifer and sub-alpine coniferous forests, between elevations of about 1,200-3,400 metres, of south-central China.

Why giant pandas are so important

Giant pandas help to keep their mountain forests healthy by spreading seeds in their droppings, which helps vegetation to thrive.

The Giant panda’s forested habitat is also important for local people – for food, income and fuel for cooking and heating. The pandas live in the mountain catchment areas of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, whose river basins are the economic heart of China, home to over half a billion people.

Panda habitat rivals the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world. It's also vitally important for other threatened and endangered species, including golden snub-nosed monkeys, takins, red pandas and snow leopards. 

By protecting pandas in the wild we’re helping conserve the wider environment, for the people and wildlife that depend on it.

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Giant panda eating a bamboo shoot