Chinese Pandas' Home Wins World Heritage Listing

July 12, 2006 Updated: July 12, 2006

BEIJING – China's giant pandas can rest easier after Wednesday when the country secured world heritage listing for much of the rare bears' wild mountain home.

The World Heritage Committee meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, agreed to place the giant pandas' bamboo-covered habitat in southwest China's Sichuan province on the World Heritage List, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese conservationists praised the decision as a step towards protecting the shy symbols of China's disappearing wilderness.

“To protect an animal is not just putting it living in the zoo, but keeping it alive in its home,” Lu Zhi, a professor at Peking University who specializes in pandas, told Xinhua.

The area listed for protection covers 9,245 square kilometres across mountainous western Sichuan and holds about one third of the world's giant panda population, Xinhua reported. The prestigious listing obliges authorities to protect the natural habitat.

Recently, Chinese and British scientists announced that giant pandas may not be as close to extinction as feared after finding there could be almost twice as many living in the wild as thought.

Scientists had previously estimated there were about 1,590 giant pandas living in reserves in the mountains of China. But the researchers estimated there could be as many as 3,000 there after a survey using a new method to profile DNA from panda dung.