What is the Panda's evolutionary history?

Fossil evidence suggests that the Pygmy Giant Panda (Ailuropoda microta) is the earliest known ancestor of the Giant Panda. 

It was smaller, measuring around 1m (3 ft.) in length, while the modern Giant Panda grows to around 1.5 m (5 ft.). The first discovered skull of the animal, in south China, is estimated to be 2 million years old.

This research indicates that the giant panda has evolved for more than 3 million years as a completely separate lineage than that of other bears.

The ancestors of the modern giant panda were widely distributed over much of eastern and southern China as far north as Beijing. They have also been found in northern Myanmar (Burma) and northern Vietnam. Part of these places, are still panda territory today.
 / ©: naturepl.com / Edwin Giesbers / WWF
© naturepl.com / Edwin Giesbers / WWF

Modern day pandas

Today, pandas are considered one of the most charismatic animals, being a symbol of China and of nature conservation around the world.

The interest for the animal in the western world start in the late 19th century and beggining of the 20th century.


In 1936, American fashion designer Ruth Harkness captures and takes the baby panda Su-Lin to the United States, making the cub an instant "celebrity" and evoking universal sympathy for the plight of the species and creating the 'panda cult'.

In the early 1960s the first four panda reserves are established and a nature decree issued prohibiting the hunting of a list of animals, including the panda

In 1979 WWF signs a unique agreement in Beijing for conservation cooperation with the People’s Republic of China. A number of high-priority projects in China are decided upon, the first of which is the conservation of the panda.

WWF was the first international conservation organization to work in China at the Chinese government's invitation.

A 1989 WWF-funded research and satellite imagery show that suitable habitat for pandas in the Sichuan Province has shrunk to 50 percent of its size in 1974.

In 1992 A management plan for the panda is launched following a decade of cooperation between WWF and the Chinese Ministry of Forestry. Upon completion of the plan, 60 percent of all panda habitat would be included within protected areas.

At 1998 WWF files a lawsuit over the panda loan process which results in a policy requiring U.S. zoos importing giant pandas to ensure that more than half of the funds associated with a panda loan to be channelled into the conservation of wild pandas and their habitat.

In June 2004 the result of the Third National Survey on the Giant Panda and its habitat released by the State Council of China. The survey counted 1,600 pandas - a growth of 40% in the panda population compared to what was thought to exist in the 1980s.
 / ©: WWF / WWF Intl.
Sir Peter Scott visiting a Giant Panda in the Beijing zoo.
© WWF / WWF Intl.
The evolution of WWF's famous panda logo rel=
The evolution of WWF's famous panda logo

What is the story behind the panda logo of WWF?

The inspiration came from Chi-Chi: a giant panda that had arrived at the London Zoo in the year 1961, when WWF was being created.

Aware of the need for a strong, recognisable symbol that would overcome all language barriers, WWF's founders agreed that the big, furry animal with her appealing, black-patched eyes would make an excellent logo.

The first sketches were done by the British environmentalist and artist, Gerald Watterson.

Based on these, Sir Peter Scott, one of those founders, drew the first logo, and said at the time... "We wanted an animal that is beautiful, is endangered, and one loved by many people in the world for its appealing qualities. We also wanted an animal that had an impact in black and white to save money on printing costs."

The black-and-white panda has since come to stand as a symbol for the conservation movement as a whole.

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