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How many giant pandas are there?

How many giant pandas are there Science The Guardian


Given all this, it’s very hard to know how many pandas are left in the wild or, indeed, whether their numbers are decreasing or increasing. Mercifully, the method used in the current census (I’m told it’s a combination of the bite-size approach and molecular analysis) should allow a direct comparison to the 1998-2002 census. That said, we still need to be careful about what China tells us about the status of its “national treasure”. After all, the panda is a ferocious political beast and some results will be more welcome to the Chinese administration than others.

To illustrate what I mean, here are three possible scenarios:

  1. The survey shows there are fewer than 1596 pandas. This will be awkward for China’s elite, who want to claim that all their support for panda conservation has paid off (e.g. stiff penalties for the capture of wild pandas, a logging ban, the Grain for Green policy and the rapid increase in protected areas dedicated for panda conservation).
  2. The survey shows there are more than 1596 but fewer than 2500 pandas. Politically, this is the ideal result (see above and below).
  3. The survey shows there are more than 2500 pandas. This might sound like super news, yet it would result in the giant panda being downgraded from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. This would be a considerable loss to the political capital to be made from the giant panda. (Ailuropoda melanoleuca currently qualifies as “Endangered” because it meets the criterion C2a(i) in the 2001 Categories & Criteria (version 3.1) by virtue of a population is estimated at “fewer than 2500 mature individuals”).

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Yeah, just about everywhere I look the total pandas estimated in the world ranges from 1500-2500.

That's an oddly specific range but the explanation is good for telling us why.

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