|Wolong National Nature Reserve|
Panda cub at the panda breeding centre of Wolong Nature Reserve
|Location||Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, People's Republic of China|
|Area||ca. 2,000 km2 (770 sq mi)|
Wolong National Nature Reserve (simplified Chinese: 卧龙自然保护区; traditional Chinese: 臥龍自然保護區; pinyin: Wòlóng Zìránbǎohùqū) is a protected area located in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, People's Republic of China. Established in 1963, the reserve covers an area of about 200,000 hectares in the Qionglai Mountains region. There are over 4,000 different species recorded in the reserve. Wolong National Nature Reserve houses more than 150 highly endangered giant pandas. The reserve is also a home to many other endangered species including: red pandas, golden monkeys, white-lipped deer and many precious plants. Wolong gets up to 100,000 visitors every year.
In June 1980, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda was established at Wolong with the efforts of both World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Chinese government. To this date, researchers have conducted many breeding research projects on giant pandas and have successfully bred 66 panda cubs.
A mountain stream runs through the Wolong Valley (where the Reserve is); the stream is heavily armoured with boulders and smaller rounded stones. Stream waters are rather alkaline with pH levels in the range of 8.91. (Hogan, 2007) Water quality turbidity is quite high due to extensive sand and gravel mining in stream.
According to a 2001 research by Dr. Jianguo Liu of Michigan State University, the rate of destruction is higher after the reserve's creation than before its creation. Using NASA's satellite images and records of population, Liu's research team concluded that due to tourism and the increase in local population, the reserve is facing an unprecedented threat. "Tourists don't think they have an impact on panda habitat, but indirectly each visitor has some impact," Liu said. "We don't see ourselves as a destructive force, but we are."
The giant panda is the most famous species of the reserve. Other typical larger Carnivora are leopards, dholes, Asian black bear, Asiatic golden cats, red pandas, hog badgers and yellow-throated martens. Hooved mammals are represented by Sichuan takins, wild boars, musk deer, mainland serows, Chinese gorals, tufted deer and sambar deer. Other noticeable mammals include golden snub-nosed monkeys and Tibetan macaque, complex-toothed flying squirrel, bamboo rats, and porcupines. Because the reserve comprises different altitudes, it includes tropical and temperate climate zones and harbors species typically for the tropics, like clouded leopard and sambar deer as well as species from temperate regions, like white-lipped deer, snow leopard and Eurasian lynx.
The region, including the Panda Research Center, was largely devastated on May 12, 2008, by a catastrophic earthquake, though the captive giant pandas were initially reported to be safe. Immediately after the quake, officials were unable to contact the reserve. PRC’s Foreign Ministry later said that a group of 31 British tourists visiting the Wolong panda reserve in the quake-hit area returned safe and uninjured to the provincial capital. The well-being of an even greater number of pandas in the neighbouring panda reserves initially remained unknown. Five security guards at the reserve were killed by the earthquake. Six pandas escaped after their enclosures were damaged. By May 20, two pandas at the reserve were found to be injured, while the search continued for another two adult pandas that went missing after the quake. By May 28, 2008, one panda was still missing, nine-year-old Mao Mao, a mother of five at the breeding centre. She was discovered on Monday, June 9, her body crushed by a wall in her enclosure. Panda keepers and other workers placed her remains in a small wooden crate and buried her outside the breeding centre.
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