The earthquake of 2008 destroyed not only many lives, homes, power plants, roads and schools, but also parts of the Wolong Panda Center, and approximately 25% of the bamboo in the Giant Pandas habitat.
Mud and rock slides resulting from torrential spring rains and a lack of vegetation following the earthquake caused more damage to the bamboo in 2009 and 2010. Then in 2011, an extremely heavy snow further damaged the bamboo.
Without bamboo, Giant Pandas will not survive. One Giant Panda that we know of has already starved to death, maybe more. The survival of captive and wild Giant Pandas is dependent on a plentiful and stable food supply.
The Wolong Panda Base is being moved to a new location still within the Wolong Nature Reserve closer to the town of Gengda. Construction is currently underway. Bamboo will be planted in and around the new base, the main area for the Giant Panda reintroduction training. Bamboo will be planted in approximately 10 hectors (about 25 acres). This bamboo will be used for the captive Giant Panda population along with any wild Giant Pandas who choose to eat it.
Local people depending on the Giant Pandas for their livelihoods have been relocated to the area. The planting project will not only provide food for the Giant Pandas but also provide opportunities for many local people who will plant and manage the bamboo harvest, prevent livestock form grazing in the area and transport the bamboo- making this project an outstanding example of a sustainable effort.
This will be a 5 year project. In 2011, the planning was completed and initial preparation, weeding, fertilization and irrigation was begun.
2012 saw the start of the planting, with additional planting occurring this year and next year. 2015 will be spent weeding, fertilizing and irrigating the bamboo with some fill in planting as needed.
There are 42 species of bamboo which Giant Pandas eat. Each species has a life cycle and will flower and die off every 20 to 40 years depending on the species. Giant Pandas need to have other species available to eat or be able to migrate to a different area when the bamboo dies off. After the bamboo flowers, it can take 4-10 years before the bamboo begins to grown again.
In order to more accurately replicate the Giant Pandas’ natural habitat, multiple species of bamboo need to be grown. In addition, it is thought that different bamboo species provide various nutritional benefits. Individual Giant Pandas seem to have some preferences in the variety of bamboo they select. Plans call for planting 5 types of bamboo which seem to be preferred by the Giant Pandas:
- Chimonobambusa Quadrangularis (Square Bamboo)
- Bambusa Sinospinosa (Thorny Bamboo)
- Plyllostachys Bissetii (a very cold hardy variety)
- Dendrocalamus Latiflorus (Mei-Nung Bamboo)
- Fargesia Robusta (actually called Wolong Bamboo)
Growers in Dujiangyan City and Chongzhou City will provide the bamboo germchit or seedlings.
An adult panda needs approximately 20-88 pounds of bamboo per day depending on what part of the bamboo they are eating. If they are eating bamboo stems they will eat about about 37 pounds, bamboo leaves usually amounts to about 22 pounds, and their favorite is bamboo shoots in which they will eat up to about 88 pounds. The spring planting which occurred in 2012 is estimated to have a survival rate of 50-75% depending on weather conditions, thus additional planting will be necessary in 2013 and 2014.