• instagram
  • instagram

Frequently asked questions about pandas and the Ähtäri Zoo panda project

What is the panda project about?

In the coming years, Ähtäri Zoo will complete a construction project in the Asian area. The project will support animal conservation work for species already in the zoo. The project will focus on endangered species from Asia and especially China, such as the Siberian tiger, snow leopard, red panda, takin, and giant panda.

Ähtäri Zoo observes the strategy of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to conserve endangered species by supporting in-situ conservation by ex-situ conservation.

The panda project is part of Ähtäri Zoo’s extensive ex-situ conservation program for endangered species, which already includes the Finnish forest reindeer, the European mink and the snow leopard.

What is the giant panda?

The panda is a bear species native to the mountains of Shaanxi, Sichuan and Ganzu in the People’s Republic of China. It has become the symbol of globally conserved endangered species. According to official census, in 2015 there were 1,850 individuals living in the wild in China. The species is endangered.

A panda does not hibernate but instead is active year-round. The panda belongs to the bear family (Ursidae) and is also known as the ‘giant panda’, ‘bamboo bear’ and ‘panda bear’. Ähtäri Zoo uses the names ‘panda bear’ and ‘panda’. The climate conditions in Ähtäri correspond well to the temperatures and seasonal changes of the Himalayan hills, which makes the conditions especially favourable to pandas and other Asian species.

In the wild, pandas eat almost exclusively bamboo shoots, leaves and woody stems. The bamboo feed needed by the pandas will be transported from the vast bamboo plantations of Central Europe as part of the normal transport chain of animal feed and vegetables.

Can pandas be saved by bringing them to Ähtäri?

Ähtäri is one of the 20 zoos doing conservation work abroad that China has chosen for their expertise to help save the species from extinction. Outside of China, pandas are only released to facilities that have a long-term background in species conservation work and that are working in close co-operation with the Chinese conservation programme and thus can provide significant additional value to the conservation programme.

How big is the significance of pandas in captivity for conserving the species?

The panda programme started by China in 1996 combines information gained from the conservation zoos in the fields of veterinary medicine, biology and animal well-being to conservation work of the panda population in the wild. Without the vast expertise gained from the zoos, the species could not have been saved from extinction. Ex-situ conservation is still considered essential. In 2015, China launched a back-to-nature programme for pandas in order to strengthen the genetic diversity of the fragmented population.

The IUCN has published guidelines with justifications for the ex-situ conservation of endangered species: http://www.eaza.net/assets/Uploads/Position-statements/IUCN-Guidelines-on-the-Use-of-ex-situ-management-for-species.pdf and in the WWF statement: Captive Breeding – WWF Policy Statement 2007.

Why are pandas being housed in captivity outside of China?

China’s objective is to keep 400 individuals in ex-situ conservation in case the wild population is destroyed for example due to animal diseases or human actions. The pandas in Sichuan are threatened by the canine distemper spread by dogs and the diminishing and fragmenting of naturally bamboo-dominated forests, among other causes. Fewer than 1,900 individuals are left in the wild in China, in the mountains of Sichuan and Shaanxi. By maintaining a population in ex-situ conservation we can also maintain the genetic diversity of pandas.

Finnish zoological and veterinary research is on a high level and complements China’s competence in conserving the species. We have an exceptionally long tradition of bear research in Finland, a profound knowledge of using studbooks in conserving critically endangered species, and high-quality veterinary research.

Web design by Mainostoimisto Uniikki