Giant Pandas are a major attraction at all zoos, bringing joy to millions of visitors each year. Though giant pandas thrive well in captive environment, their survival in the wild is now uncertain due to humans. Giant pandas’ have the digestive system of a carnivore, but long ago, they adapted to a vegetarian diet and now 90% of their daily diet consists of stems and leaves of bamboos.
The man problem with an overall bamboo diet is that bamboos have a flowering period. During the flowering period, the bamboos flower over a large area and die. Though new bamboos grow from the flowers, the process can take 20 years before the bamboos can support a panda population again.
The giant panda population must move to another bamboo forest when one bamboo region flowers. Historically, this has never been a problem, but with the increase in human population, there has been rapid deforestation. Humans have also encroached into the giant panda’s migration routes by building rail and roads through their habitat.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are the main causes of the decline in giant panda population. Heavy deforestation has already cleared off a large portion of the panda’s natural habitat. Though logging has been banned in many regions, roads and railways continue to fragment the region, making it difficult for Panda population to breed.
There are fewer than 2,000 Giant Pandas still alive in the world and there is real risk, that the Giant Pandas would become extinct in the near future. In spite of the conservation efforts of various bodies, pandas are still not out of the endangered list. This is mainly due to low reproductive rate of pandas.
They are very selective in choosing their mates and infant mortality is very high. Due to the fragmentation of habitat, there is an increased inbreeding tendency among Giant Pandas. Inbreeding leads to feeble cubs and loss of genetic diversity.
Climate change is also affecting the main source of Panda’s nutrition – bamboos. Scientists believe that the whole bamboo population will vanish from the earth soon, if the current destruction of environment continues.
Without bamboo, the Giant Pandas would starve to death. Giant pandas could lose half their habitat with even just a couple degrees increase in global temperatures. We need strict laws and reduce the human interference into the Panda’s natural habitat if we want Giant Pandas to survive.