The impact of habitat regulatory policies on ecological protections and rural livelihoods: The case of giant panda protected areas in China
Giant panda’s had a large historical range throughout southern and eastern China, as well as into neighbouring Myanmar and northern Vietnam. But due to expanding human populations and development, the species is now restricted to around 20 remote forest areas in six mountain ranges in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
Despite estimates that the numbers of wild giant pandas are rising, only about two thirds of the estimated 1,864 are protected by a network of 67 panda reserves. Furthermore, only 54% of their existing habitat is covered by the nature reserves, and there is evidence that their habitat is shrinking and becoming more fragmented due to human encroachment in the form of agriculture, road building, tourism and logging. Since habitat loss remains the most serious threat to the panda, establishing new reserves and extending existing ones – to cover the animal’s actual range – is crucial for their survival. But how to balance conservation and development in a context whereby approximately half of the country’s extreme poor live in or near the protected areas? Addressing this question is particularly timely given the central government’s recent pledge – by president Xi Jinping – to end poverty in China by 2020.
The purpose of this study is to provide empirical data that can be used to inform and improve current regulatory policies to realize the inclusive development of ecology and livelihoods in giant panda habitats.
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