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A Shrinking Refuge Life for the giant panda may seem simple. Yet

pandas face many challenges. Sometimes there isn’t enough bamboo to eat, or their homes are destroyed. In some cases, pandas have been hunted by people. Nearly all wild pandas live in the mountains

of central China. Bamboo is normally plentiful here. Yet aſt er bamboo plants produce seeds, the plants die off . It takes a long time before the seeds grow into new plants large enough for the pandas to eat. Until new plants grow, pandas must move to

another area to find food. However, moving to find food is becoming more and more difficult. Pandas aren’t alone in their ecosystem.

Other animals live there, too, and people are not far away. More than one billion people live in China.

As they build more cities and farms, they use more natural resources. Giant pandas have less space to live and less food to eat. T e giant panda is in danger of becoming extinct.

Dwindling Numbers Today, only about 1,600 giant pandas live in the

wild. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and research centers around the world. Scientists are helping giant pandas. T e

Chinese government created panda reserves. T ese are places in the giant panda’s mountain habitat where people aren’t allowed to hunt, cut down trees, or build new houses. Few people are allowed to live in the

reserves. Pandas and other animals live there now. T e pandas have room to roam and plenty of bamboo to eat. T e panda reserves also help other wildlife,

like the golden pheasant, the red panda, and many other species. About 4,000 diff erent kinds of plants and animals live in one of these areas. Some of them live nowhere else on Earth. All the plants and animals in this ecosystem

are connected. If the panda is endangered, other plants and animals are at risk, too. If it is protected, so are they.


Unlocking the Secrets T ere is still a lot to learn about giant pandas. Yet

studying them in the wild is a challenge. Scientists have built research centers in some

of the reserves. T is gives them a chance to observe pandas more closely. Here, they care for pandas that are sick or injured. Female pandas sometimes have their cubs here, too. Sometimes a mother panda has twins. In the

wild, she will only take care of one cub. In the research center, scientists take the extra cub and make sure it grows up strong and healthy. Some of these cubs get released into the wild to live with other wild giant pandas. All of these pandas help researchers learn as

much as they can about pandas and how they live. In many ways, the giant panda is a mystery to scientists. T ere is still much to learn about them. T e future of giant pandas is unclear. For the panda population to thrive, it must have bamboo to eat and space to live freely. People must find ways to share the forest with

the giant panda and the other plants and animals that live there. Millions of people and thousands of animal species share the panda’s habitat. Protecting pandas could make life better for all.

adaptation: a behavior or body part that helps an animal survive


ecosystem: all the living things and nonliving things in an area, and their interactions

extinct: no longer existing in living form

habitat: an environment where an animal lives

omnivore: an animal that eats both plants and animals

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