A Giant Panda National Park Is Coming to China — and It Will Be Triple the Size of Yellowstone
China is getting its first giant panda national park.
Should the proposal for the park be approved, it will spread over 10,476 square miles, nearly three times the size of Yellowstone National Park. National Geographic says that the final plan could be finalized as soon as fall 2019.
The park will connect 67 giant panda reserves across the southwestern province of Sichuan, and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. Seventy-four percent of the park will be in Sichuan, where over 80 percent of wild pandas live.
With the total panda population consisting of 1,864 bears, the giant animals have been designated a vulnerable species. There are roughly 30 groups of pandas spanning six mountain ranges in western China, some with an estimated number of ten bears, Fast Company reported. The bear habitats have been split up due to natural disasters and human activities such as logging and road construction.
According to China Daily, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration hopes that by connecting the reserves, these different groups can interbreed, which would boost the overall panda population and lead to genetic diversity.
The park would also provide the pandas with a greater source of food over time. Due to climate change, the panda habitat might see a third of its bamboo cut in 80 years. The proposal for the park, however, is “setting up a network of places where they can eat,” Robert Tansey, a senior advisor on China for The Nature Conservancy, told Fast Company.
Thousands of other species would be protected as well. “Giant pandas will be the major species under protection in the national park. Apart from them, more than 8,000 kinds of wildlife, including snub-nosed monkeys, will also benefit,” Yang Chao, director of China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration's wildlife protection department, told China Daily. “The national park will not only boost the population of wildlife in the region but also protect their habitat for better biological diversity.”
While tourism will be prohibited in certain protected areas, proposals have been put forward that would allow visitors to enter other parts of the park. One such proposal is to build a railway through the Wolong Nature Reserve. However, Panda Mountain founder Marc Brody advises that experts would need to "examine" this proposal, among others, to see "if it provides a direct benefit to improving habitat for wild pandas.”