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A victory for pandas

Great news ! Panda numbers have increased by 16.8% in the last ten years. It shows that conservation efforts are working. But how can we be sure the numbers are right?

Well, it's all thanks to China's latest survey of the bears and their habitat.

1 Yeaahhh !

Wild panda population is on the rise

The good news is that the survey estimates 1,864 pandas live in the wild. That’s a 16.8% increase since the last survey released in 2003.

How does this compare with past figures ? The first survey (1974-77) estimated there were 2,459 giant pandas in the wild. The second (1985-88) estimated 1,114. The third survey, published in 2004, estimated there were 1,596.

The latest rise in the estimate is particularly encouraging, as the 2004 increase was in large partly down to researchers using better techniques and surveying a wider area. The new figures show that the hard work of the Chinese government, local communities, nature reserve staff and WWF is paying off.

Baby panda and Mom caught on a WWF camera trap in the Sichuan Anzihe Nature Reserve.

  • To find polar bears, the researchers survey from the air. From the helicopter, an anesthetic dart immobilizes the bear for up to an hour so  the researchers can safely assess it.

    1,864 giant pandas in the wild.

  • The Norwegian Polar Institute is pioneering work in the use of geo-location ear tags that store a surprising amount of data on a chip set the size of a small coin- including temperature and light. That information may help them identify when bears go into dens.

    1,246 wild giant pandas live within nature reserves, accounting for 66.8% of the total wild population.

  • Polar bear research isn’t all high-tech. Here, the researchers team up to weigh a polar bear the old-fashioned way – with scales and a sling. A female may weigh 150–250 kg, while a male could weigh up to 700 kg.

    There are currently 67 panda nature reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last report.

  • In order to set camera traps, WWF biologists walk through the field looking for signs of tigers.

    Pandas eat an average of 12 kg of bamboo a day. This requires them to eat for up to 14 hours a day.

  • Camera traps are high-tech devices, some of which offer the ability to send live pictures through MMS or email.

    The total area inhabited by wild giant pandas in China now equals 2,577,000 hectares, an expansion of 11.8% since 2003.

2 Into the wild

Watching wildlife through camera traps

Camera traps in China have captured images and video footage of giant pandas that are often difficult to see in the wild. The photographs and video are some of the most amazing images ever of pandas and other species in their remote habitat, which were caught on film as part of long-term wildlife monitoring projects set up in panda nature reserves by the Chinese government and WWF.

Camera traps are cameras encased in a secure housing with a motion or infrared sensor that is triggered by movement. WWF uses many types of models, depending on the location. Some models require field staff to regularly retrieve the images from the camera, others send images via email or MMS.

“These photos offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of giant pandas, as well as other animals, which are difficult to see in the wild,” says Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, managing director of WWF’s species program. “They demonstrate that by saving the iconic giant panda, we secure a vibrant future for other incredible wildlife, wild places and people – it’s the best kind of win-win proposition.”

The materials were captured from 2010 to 2014 by more than 470 infra-red camera traps set up in 29 nature reserves by WWF and its partners from the local forestry authority as part of the monitoring effort under the giant panda conservation program.

The multimedia materials are obtained under circumstances, where there was little external disturbance and therefore they truly reflect the conditions of those species in the wild.

Sabita Malla

Jiang Zeyin

Species programme officer, WWF-China

  • Night photo infrared light
  • Day night sensor
  • Menu Display
  • Motion sensor
Camera trap

Camera trap footage of a Giant Panda scenting a tree is marking his territory to attract female pandas. © Anzihe Nature Reserve

  • In India, this tiger broke an infrared beam and was photographed drinking from a water hole.

    WWF was the first conservation group invited into China to study the giant panda.

  • In Indonesia, this young Sumatran tiger was wandering around with its mother (not shown).

    The species has been a conservation priority for WWF since we were founded in 1961.

  • WWF cameras record anything that passes by, not just tigers. In this case, a leopard peering into the camera.

    A curious panda is snapped by an infrared camera trap.

  • Camera traps also capture poachers walking through the jungle.

    The flash from the camera trap is reflected in the eyes of the panda as it makes its way through the snow.