Featured Image by Aaron Berkovich, AsiaTravel Explorer Grant Applicant 2016.
49 years ago, Earth Day was established as a worldwide event to recognize the importance of political action and civic participation in protecting our world from the negative impacts of human activity. Here at AsiaTravel, our goal of responsible and sustainable travel includes providing our guests with a greater understanding of environmental and wildlife issues. Because we love China so much, we want to ensure everything about its natural beauty and history is protected for many, many generations to come.
This year, Earth Day focuses on protecting species. From whales to trees, pandas to bees, the diversity of wildlife throughout the world is threatened because of human activity. The goals of the Day include educating and raising awareness about current rates of extinction, as well as the threats that exist to species around the world. It’s all about how we, as a global community, can protect the Earth’s wildlife.
Protecting Species in China
There are hundreds of plant and animal species that are threatened in China. Conservation of just two of these – the giant panda and snub-nosed monkey populations – is a small but crucial part of the movement to protect our Earth and her species. So, this Earth Day, read more about these two animals that need our help in China and how you can be involved with their protection.
An emblem of wildlife protection (literally) around the world, giant pandas represent a rallying cry for species preservation. With around 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild, the need to protect and nourish one of China’s national treasures is of paramount importance to help safeguard this extraordinary creature.
Originally widespread throughout China and neighboring countries, giant pandas are now found almost exclusively in the bamboo forests of western China. While it may seem ‘easy’ to protect a species that is undeniably adorable, it has taken an incredible amount of time and resources to bring the panda population in China back from the brink of possible extinction.
These cute and cuddly cubs need our help to thrive in the wild | Image by Andrew and Annemarie on Flickr
In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassified pandas from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’. While this classification still falls within the broader definition of ‘threatened’, the removal of pandas from the endangered list was made possible due to the numerous programs that exist within China, including breeding centers, reserves, and research facilities.
Although giant pandas have a very limited breeding period each year, prefer to subsist on just one type of (relatively un-nutritious) food, and have natural habitats which have been destroyed by a variety of human incursions, the intense care that has gone into these black-and-white fluff balls has enabled their population to rebound in recent years. The fight for their protection is far from over, but the success of this iconic Chinese bear shows what is possible for species around the world – even if the reproductive odds are stacked against them.
Like pandas, snub-nosed monkeys have a rather limited habitat, made worse by the incursion of human settlements. Found mostly in the snow-capped, forested regions of Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi, and Hubei, these nose-bone-less primates also have their favorite foods, meaning any destruction to those particular food sources (like clearing forests or even harvesting dead trees) can drastically reduce the availability of resources for the monkeys.
Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkeys | Image by Quyet Le on Flickr
Related Reading: Take a trip to see the monkeys in Sichuan
Reserves have been established throughout central and southwest China, with one area even going so far as to feed the monkeys. Although a controversial move, as Dr. Long Yongcheng – a preeminent primatologist that specializes in the snub-nosed monkey – explained to AsiaTravel’s founder Mei Zhang: “This is a window for people to get to know the snub-nosed monkeys. If no one knows, then no one cares. The purpose of feeding is to educate and influence more people to care about a beautiful species that’s worthy of our care.”
Witness the conservation for yourself
Sustainable travel has been part of our mission since AsiaTravel was born on the sacred slopes of Mount Kailash 19 years ago. We’re proud of the green practices we have in place and continue to seek new and innovative ways to showcase and protect China’s heritage, both natural and manmade. Creating journeys to showcase the immense diversity of wildlife throughout China is what we do best, and we do that by ensuring protection, conservation, and education are prominent aspects of each of our customized adventures.
A wild panda hiding amid her favorite food in Chengdu | Image: Aki Yang
Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of our brand-new journey in the Wolong Nature Reserve. The trip, focusing on the protection and conservation of giant pandas in the wild, allows guests to track giant pandas, volunteer at the Wolong Panda Center as a panda keeper for the day, take a night safari into the forest to see other nocturnal animals, and learn the basics of panda conservation from expert guides. This new expedition into the lush mountains of Wolong allows visitors a rare and intimate view into the process behind protecting pandas.
For those looking for even more species spotting, AsiaTravel’s tour through Sichuan offers an animal adventure like no other. Hike through the primeval forests of Jiuzhaigou, a reserve that protects no less than 1,600 golden snub-nosed monkeys, and see the incredible primates in the wild. You’ll also be treated to an evening drive to see creatures of the night and, of course, the chance to venture into a 100,000-acre sanctuary that contains one of the most diverse and intact ecosystems in Asia. Contact us now to experience wildlife conservation first hand and learn more about AsiaTravel’s other conservation efforts.
For more ways to get involved with panda protection, or to donate to conservation efforts in Chengdu, visit the Chengdu Research Base or read more from the World Wildlife Fund.
For more information on other endangered species in China, including snub-nosed monkeys and ways to get involved, visit China’s Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF China.