The panda protection policy has not benefited other species

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The fate of the giant panda is an iconic conservation achievement. Since 2016, the species has gone from “endangered” to “vulnerable” status on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), thanks to the creation of reserves in China which have seen the day in the 1960s. However, these measures do not seem to have been beneficial for the rest of the biodiversity, according to a Chinese study published on August 3 in the British journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. The leopard, the snow leopard and the wolf have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas in China, which were created specifically for the conservation of the panda.

To come to this conclusion, Chinese researchers analyzed data on the presence of four major carnivore species in 73 protected areas in China, including 66 giant panda nature reserves. They compared data from 1950 to 1970 with camera trap surveys from 2008 to 2018. According to their results, the ranges of these four species have declined significantly in sixty years. For example, leopards have disappeared from 81% of reserve areas, snow leopards by 38%, wolves by 77% and wild Asian dogs by 95%.

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“These results demonstrate the ineffectiveness of giant pandas conservation measures to protect these large carnivore species, explains Sheng Li, first author of the study and researcher in ecology and conservation at the University of Pekin. The panda conservation measures have not been applied to other animals. They have not been protected from logging, poaching or disease, for example.

Bamboo forests spared

For Frédéric Jiguet, researcher at the Center for Ecology and Conservation Sciences of the National Museum of Natural History, these results are not surprising. “We find this case in many ecosystems, he reacts. Priority was given to a specific animal. And, according to the researcher, this method is not necessarily a good solution. “Focusing on one species hoping that it also works for others is a risk, we have to preserve more globally. “

The conservation of the panda, however, has benefited certain species of small animals or plants. Bamboo forests, for example, which are the only food of the Asian giants, have been spared. “In general, the conservation efforts of the giant panda benefit species of birds or ungulates that do not need much living space, explains Sheng Li. But large carnivores are a unique group with specific habitat needs due to their ecological characteristics: low reproduction rates, naturally low density, large home range, etc. ”

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