Three Claps for the Giant Panda!
by edmondso on November 25, 2016 - 1:42pm
In case you missed the big news last month, the giant panda is no longer an endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Populations have improved enough for the endangered species label to be downgraded to “vulnerable”.
Are we celebrating a little too soon? Technically, the giant panda is still considered a species at risk. Personally, I think this is reason to celebrate - the giant panda has been a conservation icon for the last 50 years, and efforts are finally paying off! Kacey Deamer, a staff writer for Live Science, posted an informative piece outlining some key details in bringing the giant panda back from endangerment.
In 2014, census data found that there were 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in China and current populations are approaching 2,060. This is a significant increase, especially considering it is not including the captive population of the pandas. It’s been a long and difficult journey to get the giant panda off the endangered species list, but efforts of the Chinese government are paying off. The Chinese government has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), local zoos and local community members. The WWF helped the government of China establish an integrated network of giant panda reserves and has even been working with communities to develop more sustainable livelihoods that reduce their impacts on the forest. Evidently, the WWF has played a key role in all of this.
This partnership between the government, locals, and the WWF demonstrates multi-stakeholder conservation governance. Multi-stakeholder processes involve a range of different stakeholders and utilize negotiation, facilitation, mediation, and consensus processes and techniques. Governance techniques that involve multiple actors can sometimes be more effective than the traditional “command and control” methods led by the state, as the state alone may not always know what is best. I think that multi-stakeholder conservation governance may be one of the best approaches to the protection of endangered species because it involves implementing the knowledge from a number of different groups. In this case, the Chinese government banned panda poaching, the local zoos and WWF helped with breeding and panda reserves, and the locals learned sustainable forestry to conserve the panda’s primary habitat.
Could the government have pulled this off alone? That is difficult to say, but I do believe that without teaching locals how to manage deforestation and teaming up with local zoos and the WWF, the government may not have been as successful in bringing the giant panda back from endangerment. Overall, I’m happy to see the shift from top-down, state led management to a more community involved approach. Clearly this approach has worked for the giant panda, and my hopes are that it can work for other endangered species as well.
Deamer, K. (2016). Giant Panda Is No Longer Endangered Species. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/55991-giant-pandas-no-longer-endangered.html
Mitchell, B. (2015). Resource and Environmental Management in Canada: Addressing Conflict and Uncertainty (4th ed.). Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Photo Credit: Mohd Rasfan/Getty Images