Bamboo Reforestation Program

Bamboo makes up almost 99% of a Giant Pandas food source.  So availability of bamboo has always been a basis of concern for the pandas.

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.

During this die off, in an ideal situation, the pandas just move to a new area of their habitat to find food. However human damage to their habitat may prevent this migration necessary to find fresh bamboo.  Roads, Villages, Electrical lines and human activity can block the pandas from finding the necessary bamboo.

“Corridors” to allow the pandas to move from one bamboo forest to another have been discussed for many years, but progress has been slow.

To make the matter worse, 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.

So replanting of bamboo for both the wild and captive panda populations became a priority.  Without bamboo, giant pandas will not survive.  Reports of pandas starving to death have occurred. The survival of captive and wild giant pandas is dependent on a plentiful and stable food supply.

The old Wolong Panda Base was moved to a new location, at Shenshuping, still within the Wolong Nature Reserve and closer to the town of Gengda. Bamboo was planted in and around this new base and the reintroduction area on Tiantaishan.  During construction approximately 10 hectors (about 25 acres) of bamboo was planted.  This bamboo is 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 were also relocated to the area. The planting project not only provides food for the giant pandas but also provides 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 is an ongoing project of replanting, weeding, fertilization and irrigation.

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. The 5 types of bamboo which seem to be preferred by the giant pandas are planted on an ongoing bases:

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)

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 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 to rejuvenate the bamboo occurs every 3-4 years or as needed.

Pandas International supports this bamboo planting.