China’s panda population up by 268; Now 1,864 reasons to say Awwww…

Pandas

In this Oct. 30, 2012 file photo, a researcher stands near seven panda cubs, all born in 2012, at the Chengdu Panda Base in Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. The panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey ending in 2003, according to a census by China’s State Forestry Administration. Nearly three quarters of the pandas lives in the southwestern province of Sichuan. (AP Photo/File)

China’s panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey was conducted more than a decade ago, according to the latest census conducted by China’s State Forestry Administration from 2011 to 2014.

Nearly three quarters of the pandas live in the Southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan. The remaining pandas have been found in the neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

Jia Jiansheng, deputy head of the Protection Division with China’s State Forestry Administration, told the country’s state broadcaster that in five of the six mountain chains where pandas can be found there was an increase in the numbers of the wild animals, with only the Xiaoxiangling mountain range experiencing a small drop in the number of pandas.

“The overall situation of the habitat for pandas is good,” Jia said.

Photos: China's growing panda population

The survey shows 1,246 wild giant pandas live within nature reserves. There are 67 panda reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last survey.

More than 400 pandas live in captivity, CCTV News said on Saturday, mostly in the breeding centers of Chengdu and Wolong, in Sichuan province.

The hurdle is finding a way to successfully introduce the pandas bred in captivity to the wild.

The country sent the first captive-bred panda into the wild in 2006 and a fourth was set free in October 2014.

A two-year-old giant female, named Xin Yuan, was meant to be released, but died in November 2014 from respiratory and renal failure at a conservation and research center in Sichuan province.

The forensic investigation revealed that the panda had contracted canine distemper virus, a rare infection that has killed three more pandas in Northwest China’s Shaanxi province.

The survey introduced on Saturday also points to economic development as a main threat to the rare animal.

It says 319 hydropower stations and 832 miles of road have been built in the giant panda’s habitat.

The World Wildlife Fund said it is the first time that large-scale infrastructure projects such as mining and railroads were referenced in the survey.

Traditional threats such as poaching are on the decline, WWF noted.

Report by The Associated Press.