|National park boosts panda protection, benefits locals|
Over the past decades, China has seen remarkable achievements in giant panda protection. The establishment of the Giant Panda National Park, which covers the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu, has further protected the species and created new opportunities for locals.
In 2017, China started piloting the giant panda park. Last year, China officially designated the first group of five national parks, including the Giant Panda National Park.
Covering about 22,000 square km, the park is home to more than 1,300 wild pandas. The park area in Sichuan accounts for 87.7 percent of its total area, and the wild panda population there accounts for 91.6 percent of the park's total.
Sichuan has strengthened wild panda conservation efforts across the park within the province in recent years. A total of 460 patrol routes stretching over 2,300 km have been set up. The Park section in Sichuan has more than 1,700 infrared cameras, collecting over 100,000 pieces of monitoring information every year.
Meanwhile, Sichuan has also seen an improvement in the quality of its captive giant pandas.
As of October, 13 panda cubs had been born at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda this year. There are 355 pandas at the center, accounting for more than 50 percent of captive giant pandas across the globe.
"We pursued panda numbers in the past, but now, we pay more attention to the quality of the species. We have been improving our standards in breeding and feeding giant pandas to ensure the high-quality development of the panda population," said Wei Rongping, a center official.
"The national park integrates all conservation efforts and creates a better habitat for the giant pandas, which is also conducive to their existence and reproduction," said Xiang Kewen, head of the park administration.
NEW LIFE FOR PARK RESIDENTS
To better protect wild pandas, the national park has been divided into core protection areas and general control areas. Human activities are prohibited in the core protection areas and limited in the latter areas.
Luoyigou Village is adjacent to a core protection area.
"Villagers' attitudes toward the protection efforts have made a U-turn. They could not fully understand these efforts at first and often poached wild animals and cut down trees," said Yang Yong, Party chief of Luoyigou Village.
But they are now embracing the conservation policies as they are benefiting from them. Yang added that modern infrastructure, the introduction of eco-friendly industries and new job opportunities have given villagers new hope.
To date, Sichuan has created more than 9,300 public welfare jobs in the national park, and 87.89 percent of these posts were offered to local residents.
Yingjing County is a significant habitat for wild pandas. Nearly half the county is inside the national park. This mountainous county once heavily depended on traditional industries such as coal mining, quarrying, and lumbering.
The county shut down these industries and set about developing panda-related tourism.
Guo Hongmei, a resident of Fazhan Village, started to engage in rural tourism a few years ago. Guo's homestay now offers 22 rooms and provides catering for tourists. The new business brings her an annual income of up to 400,000 yuan (about $56,278).
"We have diversified wildlife here, such as giant pandas and golden snub-nosed monkeys, and primordial forest, attracting many visitors every year," said Guo, also a tour guide.
"Sichuan has effectively eased the conflict between humans and animals, and between conservation and development," Xiang said.