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Panda homes may be on world protection list

The central government has given a boost to a bid by Sichuan Province to include the habitats of its giant pandas on the World Natural Heritage List.

According to the Sichuan Provincial World Heritage Office, the State Council has agreed to name the habitats as the country's sole nominee for the application to be included on the list at the 30th session of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which will be held in 2006.

Hailed as a living fossil, the giant panda, whose image is adopted as the logo of the World Wide Fund for Nature, has been around for about 3 million years. Many animals of its era perished a long time ago.

As a result of changes in natural conditions and human activities, the natural habitats of the giant panda have been fragmented.

Their ability to adapt to the changing environment, breed and resist diseases has dwindled.

These danger signs aroused the keen attention of the World Wide Fund for Nature, and resulted in Sichuan's application, said Zhang Hu, deputy chief of the Sichuan Provincial World Heritage Office.

In July 2001, the province handed its request to the State Council, asking for it to be passed on to the UNESCO Heritage Centre.

In March 2002, experts from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee inspected the pandas' home.

Last December, the State Council formally handed over its application to the UNESCO Heritage Centre.

Sichuan's giant panda habitats consist of Dayi County, Chongzhou, Dujiangyan, Qionglai and Ya'an cities and Wolong Nature Reserve, the Four Girls' Mountain and Jiajin Mountain Range in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture.

The province has 1,206 wild pandas, accounting for 76 per cent of the country's total.

According to Mao Hui, chief of the Sichuan Provincial World Heritage Office, if the application is successful it will help protect the giant pandas and their habitats.

Mao said that Sichuan has three reasons to be optimistic about its entry. First, the giant panda is a unique animal of its kind. Second, its habitats boast many other rare animals, abundant biodiversity and beautiful natural environment.

Third, the application is backed by many international organizations including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which has volunteered to help Sichuan in its application, he said.

People's Daily Online

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