© Richard Barrett / WWF-UK Portrait of a giant panda ( Ailuropoda melanoleuca ). Bifengxia Panda Base, Sichuan. China


This peaceful creature, with its distinctive black and white coat, is adored globally. WWF has been active in panda conservation since the 1980s.

About Giant Pandas

The giant panda is perhaps one of the most powerful symbols in the world when it comes to species conservation. In China, the giant panda is a national treasure. For WWF, the panda has special significance as it has been our organization’s symbol since 1961.

This peaceful, bamboo-eating member of the bear family was once widespread throughout southern and eastern China, as well as neighbouring Myanmar (Burma) and Northern Vietnam. Due to expanding human populations and development, the species is now restricted to only 20 or so isolated patches of mountain forest in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

In the 1980s, there were as few as 1,114 pandas in China. But the most recent estimates are around 1,800 individuals living in the wild. Their population has increased by 17 per cent over the last decade alone. In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature changed the panda’s status from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Giant Panda Facts

Giant Panda with a young cub in Shaanxi province, China.

Giant Panda


Scientific Name:

Ailuropoda melanoleuca



Vulnerable A wildlife species that may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.


Up to150 kg


Up to 1.5 m tall


Approximately 1,864


Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests of Southwest China


Central China


Leaves, stems and shoots of bamboo

Did You Know?

The panda's menu consists almost entirely of bamboo. Since bamboo contains very little nutritional value, pandas must eat 12 to 38 kg daily to meet their energy needs.

Panda distribution within their historic range.

Panda distribution within their historic range.

Why Are Giant Pandas Important?

Cute, often comical and always charismatic, giant pandas are often the first animal that sparks a passion among people for wildlife conservation and habitat protection. Conserving pandas helps to safeguard the broader environment that so many people and animals depend on. The panda’s habitat is important for the livelihoods of local communities, who use natural resources for food, income, fuel for cooking and heating, and medicine.

Pandas also play an important role spreading seeds and helping vegetation to grow in China’s forests. Many other endangered animals share the panda’s forest habitat, including the golden snub-nosed monkey, takin and crested ibis. So, by saving pandas, we will also be saving other important species, as well as helping to protect the unique forests that they live in.

© Fritz Pölking / WWF 6 year old male giant panda eating bamboo


Despite the conservation success in recent years, pandas are still at risk. Major contributing factors that limit the panda’s recovery are habitat loss and fragmentation— as forests are converted to agricultural areas, bamboo is harvested, and large-scale development activities such as road construction, hydropower development, and mining.

Because of China’s dense human population, many panda populations are isolated in narrow belts of bamboo no more than 1.2km wide, and panda habitat is continuing to disappear as settlers push higher up the mountain slopes. Pandas are also occasionally caught in snares set for other animals.

What WWF-Canada is Doing

WWF has been active in giant panda conservation since 1980 and was the first international conservation organization to work in China at the Chinese government’s invitation. Early panda conservation work included the first-ever intensive field studies of wild panda ecology and behaviour. More recently, WWF has been working closely with the Chinese government in the Qinling and Minshan Mountains, key landscapes for the panda, to increase nature reserves, create green corridors to link isolated pandas and setting up patrols for poaching and illegal logging.

The good news is that projects in these areas are working!


  • Panda habitat is increasing with the development of new reserves and green corridors.
  • Some threats to panda survival, such as poaching and illegal logging, have been significantly reduced.
  • Community development projects to help people sustainably coexist with pandas have been very positive.
  • In 2016, the panda’s status improved from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
© Richard Barrett / WWF-UK Portrait of a giant panda in a tree. Bifengxia Panda Base, Sichuan. China

What You Can Do

Donate or adopt a panda to support our conservation work and help save some of the world’s most threatened species from extinction.

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