When it comes to soft toys, it's pretty tough to beat the giant stuffed panda bear. With the different sizes it's available in, along with its overall pleasing looks, children everywhere can't get enough of them.
Over the years, many resources and effort has been put into protecting the endangered giant panda bear. Nature reserves and protected areas have all been developed for this effort so the panda has a safe place in which it can live. However, in recent research conducted by an international team of scientists, they have discovered that not only are pandas living outside these reserves, but these areas are actually the best places for them to be.
Within the bear family, the giant panda is the rarest member. While it's range was once throughout most of China, northern Myramar, and northern Vietnam, today, less than 1,600 pandas can be found living in the wild in just three Chinese provinces Shaanxi, Gansu, and Sichuan. The panda's habitat has fallen on hard times thanks to logging by humans, the ongoing expansion of farming, and continuous residential development. According to Andres Vinas, a specialist with MSU university's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS), "overall, about 40 percent of the suitable habitat for pandas is inside the nature reserves. Our model also identified potentially suitable habitat outside the currently accepted geographic range of the panda.
With the use of both geographical and environmental information gathered by satellites, researchers were able to develop panda habitat models; this included analyzation in the three provinces of six mountain regions where panda's are known to currently be living. Armed with this new data, scientists were then able to develop a suitable habitat index for the area which covered 48,328 square miles.
This new habitat analysis is critical for both governments and other agencies to have as they move forward with developing conservation strategies and priorities for the giant panda. The data can also be used for other endangered species. The director of the Lab of Urban and Regional Ecology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zhiyun Ouyang, says that between 2010 and 2020 the Chinese government plans on adding some 69,500 square miles of land to the country's already existing nature reserve system. With the new research on panda habitats, it allows for the opportunity to not only create new reserves, but also to expand existing ones, and create corridors which connect reserves to each other.
Not unlike the real thing, the stuffed panda bear does in fact have to worry about where it will live. After all, it never knows just who will make the choice to take it home and once there, what kind of home it will be 'subjected' to. The stuffed panda bear requires a great deal of love and attention just like any other soft toy, but in order to really thrive, a stuffed panda bear really must become the constant companion of its new owner.