Giant Pandas are an endangered species with only 1600 remaining in the wild. Despite being universally adored for their gorgeous looks, the rarest species of bear continues to struggle for survival. Why do pandas continue to remain an endangered species and could a new medical discovery be a key factor in driving renewed efforts for save them?
Pandas exist only in China and are still hunted for their fur. Strict laws to protect the animals have seen a decline in the practice but pandas are often killed accidently by hunters in search of other prey. In addition the natural habitat of the panda is increasingly being affected by the construction of new roads and railways which fragment the areas isolating the animals thus preventing breeding. They have also become victims of deforestation which has seriously depleted the supply of the bamboo that they need to survive. The Chinese government have instituted natural reserves to protect the pandas but more than a third of the animals live outside of these protected areas. The plight of the panda has not been helped by the fact that they have proved extremely difficult to breed in captivity.
Pandas are, in fact, crucial to the eco-systems of the forests and the economy of the areas in which they live. They spread the seeds of plants enabling vegetation to grow and bring enormous commercial benefits to the region in the shape of tourism. It is vital to both the species and to the local communities that panda numbers are sustained.
Cute & Cuddly
Giant Pandas have an adorable, cute and cuddly appearance which has at least led to the species remaining in the forefront of the public consciousness. The panda has featured in the World Wide Fund for Nature’s log since its inception in 1961 and the animal is extremely popular with children. When children’s clothing brand Olive & Moss first launched their collection of attire featuring animal characters the first creature to be created was Perry the Panda. Unfortunately despite their obvious appeal the panda’s struggle against mankind continues.
A recent scientific discovery has brought pandas back into the spotlight and may inspire a new appreciation for the value of the species. Researchers at the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University in China have found that pandas produce a powerful antibiotic in their blood. The antimicrobial compound kills bacteria including those resistant to conventional antibiotics and could be used to develop effective treatments against drug resistant superbugs. The new discovery should strengthen the desire to conserve pandas but their diminished numbers and breeding difficulties will not be an obstacle to the development of the new drugs. Scientists will not need to extract the antimicrobial compound from the animals themselves as they have been able to produce it artificially.
Who knows what the fate of the panda will be in the future as their numbers are so critically low but the recent discovery has served to emphasise their value to mankind and may inspire further research into the valuable properties this unique species may possess.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Sally Stacey is a lover of travel, blogger and business owner who finds bears of all types fascinating. Read more about Sally on her Google+ profile page.