A recent study led by Duke University researchers shows that China’s conservationist efforts aimed at saving giant pandas had an unexpected outreach – hundreds of species of birds, amphibians and mammals that risked extinction are now out of harm’s way in the giant panda preserves .
Stuart L. Pimm, lead author of the study and conservation ecology expert at Duke University, noted that China allocated ‘spectacular protected areas’ to saving giant pandas. But these areas are also safe havens for an impressive number of bird and animal species that can not be found in other locations of the world.
The recent study was focused on learning whether the charismatic pandas served as “a protective umbrella” for other animals during conservationist efforts.
The findings revealed that Chinese measures to protect giant pandas also lead to the protection of 70 percent of forest animals and birds, and 31 percent of amphibians that can only be found within the country’s borders.
Binbin Li, co-author of the study who worked closely with Pimm, said that the new study also shows that more areas needed to be designated as protected in order to shield even more species from extinction.
The two researchers published their findings Wednesday in the journal Conservation Biology.
Li is also a field worker with Chinese authorities that try to preserve giant pandas in the Min Shan Mountains of Sichuan province. During the study, Li and Pimm generated a comprehensive database of all species in protected areas with help from data gathered by hundreds of Chinese biologists.
“These endemic species have small geographical ranges and they tend to be the ones at greatest risk of extinction,”
The database revealed that most threatened species were located in the mountain areas of southwestern China. These areas were especially designated by Chinese authorities as nature preserves for giant pandas. Li said that people were concerned that local authorities may focus too much on the pandas and neglect other species. But the recent study revealed that that just wasn’t the case.
The two researchers also used computer models to create maps of the areas with the largest concentrations of endemic species that can overlap with the areas designed to host giant pandas. The team found gaps of threatened animals that need to be included in protected areas in order to survive. Scientists recommend that local authorities could still focus on giant pandas but also create protected areas and corridors to include other native species.
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