Home of the giant panda

09 November 2010 | Fact sheet

Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, People's Republic of China

A World Heritage Site since 2006, the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries are composed of seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks in the Qionglai and Jiajin Mountains. The seven parks are the Wolong Nature Reserve, the Fengtongzhai Nature Reserve, the Mt. Siguniang Nature Reserve, the Laba River Nature Reserve, the Heishui River Nature Reserve, the Jintang-Kongyu Nature Reserve and the Caopo Nature Reserve. The Scenic Parks are the Mt. Qingcheng-Dujiangyan Scenic Park, the Mt. Tiantai Scenic Park, the Mt. Siguniang Scenic Park, the Xiling Snow Mountain Scenic Park Mt. Jiguan-Jiulonggou Scenic Park Mt. Jiajin Scenic Park, Miyaluo Scenic Park, the Mt. Lingzhen-Mt. Daxue Scenic Park, the Mt. Erlang Scenic Park. The sanctuaries are home to more than 30% of the world's highly endangered Giant Pandas and the most important sites for their captive breeding. Along with the Giant Panda, the sanctuary is a refuge to other endangered species such as the red panda, the snow leopard, and the clouded leopard. Outside of the tropical rainforests, it is among the botanically richest sites of the world, and is home to between 5,000 and 6,000 species of flora.

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Size and Location

The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries are located in southwest Sichuan province of China and cover It 9245 km²

Flora and Fauna

There are six vegetation zones in the nominated site which are related to altitude, subtropical mountain evergreen broadleaved forest; deciduous broadleaved forest; warm temperate coniferous and deciduous broadleaved mixed forest; cool temperate to sub-alpine coniferous forest ; sub-alpine scrub and meadows. The alpine flora of the nominated property is recognized as amongst the richest example of its type in the world; Above 5,000m, there is permanent ice and snow. Bamboo species, generally found within the range of 2,400 to 3,800 meters, including the umbrella bamboo and and the arrow bamboo, a critical food source and habitat for the giant panda.

The sanctuary is located within the West Sichuan–Northwest Yunnan centre of floral endemism. The total flora of the nominated area is between 5,000 and 6,000 species in over 1,000 genera, over 4,000 of which are flowering plants. 50 genera are endemic to China (20% of its total) and 67 plant species are nationally protected. The reasons for this diversity are varied and include the wide range of different habitat types afforded by the large altitudinal range, sharp climatic gradation, the variety of rock and soil types and the wide and complex connections with other major floristic regions.

The sanctuary is a significant global diversity centre for many plant groups such as roses, peonies, magnolias, maples, primroses, bamboos and rhododendrons. More than 100 species of rhododendron are listed for the area. Of the site’s 22 orchid species, nearly 40% are endemic. Many western ornamental garden plants were discovered in these mountains. The site is a major source and gene pool for hundreds of traditional medicinal plants, many now rare and endangered.

The giant panda is recognized as a “National Treasure” of China and is a flagship and inspiration for global conservation efforts. This is underlined by the choice by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) of the giant panda as its logo to symbolize global efforts to conserve nature. The giant panda is listed as an endangered species under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is inscribed as a Class 1 Protected Animal by the Chinese Government. Apart from the Giant Panda, the sanctuary also has a number of other endemic and threatened animal species. There are 542 species of vertebrates, including 109 species of mammals in 25 families (more than 20 % of all Chinese mammals). Globally endangered mammals, apart from the giant panda, are the red panda, the snow leopard and the clouded leopard.

365 birds in 45 families, 300 of which breed locally, such as leaf warblers, laughing thrushes, rose finches and pheasants. China is recognized as a global centre of pheasant diversity with a total of 63 species, and the sanctuary contains 15. The butterfly fauna is rich with 731 species of Lepidoptera. Many animals are endemic to the region and one, the Triassic relict water beetle.

Why protect the area?

Apart from the protection and survival of the Giant Panda and many other essential species, the sanctuary is also recognised as having important historical, cultural and spiritual values. 2,500 years ago, a Han emperor set up a panda breeding house. The temples of Mount Qingcheng are supposed to be where Taoism was founded, and a there is a 2,200-year old Dujiangyan irrigation system to the north. Mount Siguniang is a sacred mountain for the Tibetans and in Baoxing, there are early Han buildings and the 19th century Franco-Qing mission station at Dengchigou, where Père David, the French missionary who first described the panda, was based.