Two young giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) eating. Wolong Panda Reserve, Sichuan, China

The panda, with its distinctive black and white coat, is adored by the world and considered a national treasure in China. This bear also has a special significance for WWF because it has been our logo since our founding in 1961.

Pandas live mainly in temperate forests high in the mountains of southwest China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat around 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, depending on what part of the bamboo they are eating. They use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.

A newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter—about 1/900th the size of its mother—but females can grow up to about 200 pounds, while males can grow up to about 300 pounds as adults. These bears are excellent tree climbers despite their bulk.

  • STATUS Vulnerable
  • POPULATION 1,864 in the wild
  • SCIENTIFIC NAME Ailuropoda melanoleuca
  • HEIGHT Adults can grow to more than four feet.
  • WEIGHT 220–330 pounds
  • HABITATS Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests of southwest China

Wild pandas get a boost

The iconic species has been upgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable.’

When WWF was first founded in 1961, a giant panda living at the London Zoo inspired our simple black and white logo—an icon that has since evolved into a rallying symbol of global conservation.

Today, WWF protects wild pandas by preventing habitat loss caused by human development and encroachment, the most serious threat to their long-term survival. For years, led by WWF-China and now with new partners including Disneynature, we’ve worked to preserve and link important panda corridors across China, spanning more than 34 million acres, three provinces, and two of the country’s largest river basins. In the process, we’ve protected critical habitat for other species too: snub-nosed monkeys, takins, and snow leopards among them.

The efforts are yielding success: Wild panda numbers are finally rebounding after years of decline. In September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that pandas have been upgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on the global list of species at risk of extinction, following a population growth of nearly 17% over the past decade.

Yet while this recent status change for pandas is encouraging, they’re not out of the woods yet. Says Lo Sze Ping, CEO of WWF-China, “Everyone should celebrate this achievement. But pandas remain scattered and vulnerable, and much of their habitat is threatened by poorly planned infrastructure projects. Remember, there are still only 1,864 left in the wild.”

The photo above is from Disneynature’s upcoming film Born in China. A portion of opening-week ticket sales in the US and China will benefit WWF’s panda conservation efforts. Learn more about WWF’s work with Disneynature.

CRUCIAL ROLE IN FORESTS: The biological diversity of the panda’s habitat is unparalleled in the temperate world and rivals that of tropical ecosystems, making the giant panda an excellent example of an umbrella species conferring protection on many other species where pandas live. In other words, when we protect pandas, we invariably protect other animals that live around them, such as multicolored pheasants, the golden monkey, takin, and crested ibis. Pandas also bring sustainable economic benefits to many local communities through ecotourism.

HABITAT LOSS

China’s Yangtze Basin region holds the panda’s primary habitat. Infrastructure development (such as dams, roads, and railways) is increasingly fragmenting and isolating panda populations, preventing pandas from finding new bamboo forests and potential mates. 

Forest loss also reduces pandas’ access to the bamboo they need to survive. The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, but only around 67% of the total wild panda population lives in reserves, with 54% of the total habitat area being protected.

WHAT WWF IS DOING: WWF was the first international conservation organization to work in China at the Chinese government’s invitation. Our main role in China is to assist and influence policy-level.conservation decisions through information collection, demonstration of conservation approaches, communications, and equipping people with the tools and knowledge they need to protect pandas and their habitat.

THE WWF LOGO

Evolution of the WWF logo

Evolution of the WWF Logo

The inspiration for the WWF logo came from Chi-Chi, a giant panda that was living at the London Zoo in 1961, the same year WWF was created. WWF’s founders were aware of the need for a strong, recognizable symbol that would overcome all language barriers. They agreed that the big, furry animal with her appealing, black-patched eyes would make an excellent choice.

The first panda sketches were done by the British environmentalist and artist Gerald Watterson. Based on these, Sir Peter Scott, one of WWF’s founders and a world-renowned conservationist and painter, drew the first logo.

The design of the logo has evolved over the past four decades, but the giant panda’s distinctive features remain an integral part of WWF’s treasured and unmistakable symbol. Today, WWF’s trademark is recognized as a universal symbol for the conservation movement.

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