The giant panda is universally loved, and of course has a special significance for WWF as it has been the organizations symbol since it was formed in 1961. Today, the giant pandas future remains uncertain. This peaceful, bamboo-eating member of the bear family faces a number of threats. Its forest habitat, in the mountainous areas of southwest China, is fragmented and giant panda populations are small and isolated from each other. Meanwhile, poaching remains an ever-present threat. Over 50 reserves created By mid-2005, the Chinese government had established over 50 panda reserves, protecting more than 4,000 square miles and over 45 percent of remaining giant panda habitat. However, habitat destruction continues to pose a threat to the many pandas living outside these areas, and poaching is a further problem. Today, only around 61 percent of the population, or about 980 pandas, are under protection in reserves. As Chinas economy continues its rapid development, it is more important than ever to ensure the giant pandas survival. WWF on the ground WWF has been active in giant panda conservation since 1980, when it supported U.S. scientist Dr. George Schaller and his Chinese colleagues in field studies in the Wolong Nature Reserve. WWF was the first international conservation organization to work in China at the Chinese Governments invitation. More recently, WWF has been helping the government of China to undertake its National Conservation Program for the giant panda and its habitat. This programme has made significant progress: Reserves for this species cover more than 6,000 square miles of forest in and around their habitat. The latest survey (released in 2004) revealed that there are 1,600 individuals estimated to remain in the wild. Physical Description Pandas have a white coat with black fur around their eyes, on their ears, muzzle, legs and shoulders. The unique physical features of the species include broad, flat molars and an enlarged wrist bone that functions as an opposable thumb. Both of these adaptations are used for holding, crushing and eating bamboo. Giant pandas are classified as bears and have the digestive system of a carnivore, but they have adapted to a vegetarian diet and depend almost exclusively on bamboo as a food source. Pandas live mainly on the ground but have the ability to climb trees as well. While the species does not hibernate, it often relocates to lower altitudes in the winter and spring. Size Giant pandas are about 5 feet long from nose to rump, with a 4-6 inch tail. A large adult panda can weigh about 220-330 pounds, with males 10 percent larger and 20 percent heavier than females. Color Distinctive black and white coat. Habitat Major habitat type Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests Biogeographic realm Palearctic Range States China Geographical Location Southwest China (Gansu, Shaanxi, and Sichuan Provinces) to the east of the Tibetan plateau. Ecological Region Temperate Forests of the Upper Yangtze. Why is this species important? Panda habitat is found at the top of the Yangtze Basin, an ecoregion shared by both pandas and millions of people whose ancestors have utilized the regions natural resources for millennia. The Basin is the geographic and economic heart of China, and is one of the critical regions for biodiversity conservation in the world. Its diverse habitats contain many rare, endemic and endangered animal and plant species, the best known being the giant panda. Economic benefits derived from the Yangtze Basin include tourism, subsistence fisheries and agriculture, transport, hydropower and water resources. The survival of the panda and the protection of its habitat will ensure that people living in the region continue to reap ecosystem benefits for many generations. Interesting Facts A giant panda may consume 26-83 pounds of bamboo a day to meet its energy requirements.Panda's are reaching new levels of extinction everyday. Soon, they will vanish. Theres only a few thousands left in the entire world. If we don't act soon, this gentle bear will be lost forever.